WINNIPEG — A Yazidi boy who was held captive for three years by Iraqi militants before being reunited with his family in Winnipeg last year is requesting a meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
In a video posted to Facebook by the Yazidi Association of Manitoba, 13-year-old Emad Mishko Tamo holds up a sign thanking Canada for helping him, followed by another sign stating that he wants to share his story and be a voice for other Yazidi children still in captivity.
“There’s a thousand other kids like me who are still held captive,” one of Emad’s signs states.
“Hon. Justin Trudeau, will you meet me?”
Hadji Hesso, the association’s president, said the organization hopes the federal government can bring more Yazidi refugees to Canada, noting there are children who have been freed after the defeat of ISIL in Iraq, but who have no one to help them.
“A lot of these children are coming back but there’s no parents, there’s no family left. They’ve all been killed or massacred and nobody knows where the rest of their families are,” Hesso said.
Emad was separated from his mother, Nofa Mihlo Zaghla, after the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant displaced thousands of members of the Kurdish-minority Yazidis in 2014, but he was freed last summer in the city of Mosul.
Zaghla had been living in Winnipeg as a refugee but had no idea if her son was still alive until a relative recognized him, looking dirty and dishevelled, in a photo on social media.
Still recovering from gunshot wounds, Emad was brought to Canada last August with the help of the Yazidi association. After landing in Winnipeg, he entered a room at Winnipeg’s James Armstrong Richardson International Airport, where his mother, siblings, uncle, cousins and grandmother were eagerly waiting.
Emad rushed to his mother, who hugged and kissed him for the first time in years.
“Now he’s in school, now he’s been seeking treatment and is getting better. Slowly, though,” Hesso said.
Hesso said Emad’s father — as well as one of his brothers — remain unaccounted for.
The House of Commons unanimously passed a motion in 2016 calling the persecution of Yazidis a genocide and committing to provide asylum to Yazidi women and girls.
A subsequent commitment to bringing in 1,200 people by the end of 2017 was made last February.
An email from a spokesman for Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen states that as of December 31, 2017, the government issued just over 1,200 visas to government-supported survivors of ISIL.
More than 1,000 had arrived in Canada and 81 per cent of them were Yazidi, the email states.
The remaining few hundred have been delayed by international air travel restrictions in northern Iraq.
“Arrangements were made to fly individuals from another airport in Iraq. However, this required additional and different documentation to be obtained, a process that took weeks and, in some cases, months to arrange,” Hursh Jaswal said in the email, noting the remainder will continue to arrive in Canada in early 2018.
Jaswal said the government will not be receiving any new applications under the initiative.
Hesso said there are people, including his association, who want to help more refugees come to Canada.
“The Yazidi people … want to build life, they want to build a home, they want to live here and they want to be contributors to this country,” he said.
—by Rob Drinkwater in Edmonton
The Canadian Press