Winnipeg Yazidi refugee learns her 12-year-old son is alive after rescue from ISIS

A Winnipeg mother says she can't believe her 12-year-old son is alive, after being separated in 2014 when the Yazidi family was captured by ISIS.

Mother wants the government to reunite her with son in Iraq

'I hope to see him soon': Yazidi mother anxiously waits to see son recently freed from ISIS

6 years ago
Duration 2:17
A Winnipeg mother says she can't believe her 12-year-old son is alive, after being separated in 2014 when the Yazidi family was captured by ISIS.

A Winnipeg mother, a Yazidi refugee, is astonished to discover her 12-year-old son is alive after being rescued from ISIS.

Nofa Zaghla, from northern Iraq, says her family was separated in August 2014 when they were captured by ISIS.

She came to Canada five months ago with four of her six children. Days ago, she got a call from a relative in Iraq who said her son Emad Mishko Tamo is alive after being rescued from the Islamist extremists.

"Because of ISIS being so evil, and torturing boys and killing everyone that doesn't do as they say, we didn't think we would ever see [him] again," she said. 

Emad Mishko Tamo was separated from his mother in August 2014 when the Yazidi family was captured by ISIS. (Facebook)

On Sunday, Zaghla's brother-in-law saw a photo of the boy on social media.

Zaghla said the Iraqi army took photos of him right after he was rescued and posted them online in hopes of finding relatives.

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"I was very saddened when I saw his photo," she said about seeing her son covered in dirt. "[I] spoke to him on the phone and he said, 'I'm OK, I'm going to be fine.'"

She said her son was treated for a bullet wound to his arm and stomach injuries. Right now he is staying with his uncle in a refugee camp, but she hopes the Canadian government will help bring him to her as soon as possible.

In a video sent to his mother, Tamo said, "Canada please help me. I want to go to Canada with my mom."

'We will never forget what they did'

The family of eight were with her husband and six children for two days before they were separated.

She said she managed to keep her four youngest children with her, but the two older boys were taken with her husband, and she hasn't seen them since.

Emad Mishko Tamo, 12, was rescued from ISIS by the Iraqi army. (Facebook)

"They kept taking us from one place to another because we were being attacked," she said.

Zaghla said she endured beatings from ISIS militants because she refused to give up her small children — her youngest was just starting to crawl at the time.

"We will never forget what they did to us — the torture, the pain, everything they put us through," she said through tears. 

After two years captive, Zaghla and her four children escaped during an explosion caused by an airstrike. They spent close to a year in a refugee camp in the Kurdistan region of Iraq before being brought to Canada as government-sponsored refugees.

'We need the government to act fast'

The Yazidi Association of Manitoba is advocating on behalf of Zaghla and her family because of the language barrier. 

"We've sent letters and emails to all the MPs across the country," said Hadji Hesso, the association's director.

Hesso said he has spoken with federal immigration officials and is hopeful the boy will be reunited with his mother.

"There are steps obviously for everything … but we need the government to act fast," he said. 

The association is hoping the federal government will treat Tamo as a special case and expedite the immigration process.

"He is a child and he wants to be with his mother, like any child should be," Hesso said.

Yazidi is ancient religion derived from Zoroastrianism (an ancient Persian faith founded by a philosopher), Christianity and Islam. The religious minority largely lives in northern Iraq, and hundreds of them were killed by ISIS, which called them heretics. An estimated 40,000 members of the religious minority were trapped by the militants on Mount Sinjar. The siege was broken by Kurdish forces in December 2014.


Jillian Taylor is the Executive Producer of News at CBC Manitoba. She started reporting in 2007 and spent more than a decade in the field before moving behind the scenes. Jillian's journalism career has focused on covering issues facing Indigenous people, specifically missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. She is a born-and-raised Manitoban and a member of the Fisher River Cree Nation.