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A Boy Rescued From ISIS Is Being Reunited With His Family In Canada After 3 Years Apart

Emad's mother lives in Winnipeg and hasn't seen her son since 2014.

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A young Yazidi boy whose photo went viral after he was rescued from ISIS territory is being reunited with his mother in Canada after spending three years apart.

Steve Maman

Emad Mishko Tamo was only nine years old when he and his family were separated after being captured by ISIS forces in northern Iraq. His mother, Nofa Zaghla, managed to escape the group after more than two years in captivity and made her way to Canada with four of her children under a special government program to help resettle Yazidis fleeing ISIS.

Zaghla had feared Emad was dead, until photos of a frail young boy rescued by Iraqi troops in July gave the family hope.

The photos eventually reached Steve Maman, a Montreal businessman who has helped rescue 140 Yazidi women and children from ISIS territory through his organization, The Liberation of Christian and Yazidi Children of Iraq.

Steve Maman

Maman, who has been described as the "Jewish Schindler" for his work helping thousands of refugees, told BuzzFeed Canada that he constantly gets tagged in photos of Yazidi people on social media whom relatives are hoping to get to safety. He said he can't help everyone, but when someone tagged him on Emad's photo, he knew he had to help.

"That photo, I have to tell you, literally tore apart my heart," he said.

Maman jumped into action, using his large following on social media to spread Emad's story. Soon an uncle in Kurdistan came across the photo and identified Emad, and the young boy, now 12, learned that his mother and siblings were still alive in Canada.

Maman and the Yazidi community in Canada pushed for the Canadian government to reunite the family. "Thousands of emails went to the MPs and to the prime minister's office and to the minister of immigration," Maman said.

Ari Jalal / Reuters

The campaign, which also included billboards laying out Emad's case, soon got the attention of the Canadian government. Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen personally intervened to expedite Emad's case, according to Maman.

Immigration officials visited Zaghla in Winnipeg and assured her that the government was going to bring Emad to Canada.

After three long years apart, the reunion is set to take place in Winnipeg this week, just after midnight on Thursday.

Steve Maman

Zaghla, seen here with a banner demanding that Emad be brought home, has been in Canada for about seven months.

Khalil Hesso, president of Yazidi Association of Manitoba, told BuzzFeed Canada that about 40 people from the small Yazidi community in Winnipeg will be at the airport to welcome Emad home. He said Emad's story is not unique among Yazidis, whose mass killing and enslavement by ISIS has been recognized as an act of genocide by the United Nations. But it's still a ray of hope for the many other families torn apart by the war.

"Everybody is happy, everybody appreciates what the Canadian government is doing," he said.

A fundraiser for the family has also raised thousands of dollars to help them rebuild their lives in Canada.

Hesso also said the joy the family feels at being reunited will be tempered by the knowledge that Emad's father and one of his brothers are still missing, and by the time spent apart.

"At first when they land, it's going to be a little bit sad," Hesso said. "That's three years he was away from his mom and his brothers."

CORRECTION

Steve Maman and CYCI have helped 140 Yazidi women and children escape from ISIS territory, and Maman has helped resettle three families in Canada. An earlier version of this post misstated that all those rescued were resettled in the country.

Ishmael N. Daro is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Toronto. PGP fingerprint: 5A1D 9099 3497 DA4B

Contact Ishmael N. Daro at ishmael.daro@buzzfeed.com.

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