Saskatoon

Saskatoon man pleads for help for his abducted Syrian family

Saskatoon man says we need to help the people who can't flee Syria.

Johnny Ismail says family members abducted by ISIS in Syria

Syrian refugees react as they arrive after crossing aboard a dinghy from Turkey, on the island of Lesbos, Greece, Monday, Sept. 7, 2015. The island of some 100,000 residents has been transformed by the sudden new population of some 20,000 refugees and migrants, mostly from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. (Petros Giannakouris/Associated Press)

A Syrian man now living in Saskatoon is pleading for help freeing his family from captivity. 

While many Canadians are focused on refugees who have fled Syria, Johnny Ismail said he's worried most about those who can't escape the country. 

Ismail and his wife are Assyrian Christians, one of several minorities the advocacy group Human Rights Watch has identified as under threat by ISIS.

He says ISIS abducted his parents, sisters and extended family members in February from his home village. He estimates all 70 residents there were kidnapped and taken to an ISIS camp at another location in Syria. 

Ismail's only contact is his brother, who was in Lebanon at the time. He said the local parish of the region is paying ISIS $5,000 a month to keep the family alive and well fed. 

Ismail said ISIS has told his family that it would cost $100,000 per person to be freed.

"It's like women, kids, youth, still kidnapping. So I want the government of Canada to make more offers, more help to release these people," he said through an interpreter.

Village destroyed

Ismail shared photos of his village in Syria. They show a church reduced to rubble as well as burned-out appliances and looted homes.

"From my direct relatives I have 27 relatives there. I hope the government of Canada can help those people and bring them here."

When asked about the image of the drowned migrant boy last week and the refugee crisis sweeping Europe, Ismail expressed some of his frustrations.

"I have more than 50 kids still kidnapp[ed], no one talks about them. Not the church. Not the government. So what I want is make some big solution for everything." 

Ismail said he wants to tell this story to help those who can't help themselves. 

"Because we are not nothing people. We are human."

He said between humanitarian and military intervention, there has to be a solution and he's asking the government for help. 

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