Thanks To A Viral Photo, A Boy Who Survived ISIS Is About To Reunite With His Mom

"People are going to know his story."

After nearly three years apart, a young Yazidi boy who was trapped by ISIS will be reuniting with his mother in Canada on Thursday.

Emad Mishko Tamo was nine years old when he and his family were captured by ISIS in northern Iraq. His mother and four siblings escaped, but he did not. 

For years, the family thought Emad was dead. But last month, photos of the boy surfaced online after he was rescued by Iraqi troops. Pictures of the boy floated around online without attribution until someone tagged Steve Maman — a Montreal-based businessmen who founded The Liberation of Christian and Yazidi Children of Iraq. 

"I saw his picture on social media and on Facebook," Maman told A Plus in a phone call. "I decided to pursue it and ask questions and found out his mother was in Canada and decided to light a fire around him."

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Steve Maman

Maman, who was born in Morocco, started his organization in an effort to help innocents who are stuck in the war-torn region. His organization has rescued more than 140 Yazidi women who have been trapped under ISIS rule, many of them subjected to violence and sexual assault. The group uses funds it raises, often through GoFundMe, to connect with negotiators, government officials and members of the United Nations on the ground that then work to release captors. 

Some have dubbed Maman, who is of Sephardic Jewish descent, as the "Jewish Schindler." During his call with A Plus, he frequently drew parallels to the suffering many are experiencing in Iraq with the subjugation experienced by Jews during the Holocaust.

Early Thursday morning in the Winnipeg airport, Tamo will be reunited with his mother. BuzzFeed News reports that there will be a group of about 40 people from a small Yazidi community in Winnipeg to welcome him home. 

"I'm looking forward to a mother and a child reuniting," he said. "It's like Jews after the Holocaust finding out that their relatives were alive."

Steve Maman

Throughout the last few weeks, Maman rallied the Yazidi community in Canada to send emails toPrime Minister Justin Trudeau's office and to the minister of immigration, pleading for them to get involved. He even paid for billboards in Canada featuring Maman's face that read "E-mail 'Save Emad' to your local MP."

Maman says his work is about the decision to act and "not be a spectator," something he encourages others to do as well. If you want to help the Yazidi community in Iraq, he recommends that you starting by raising awareness, supporting NGOs, donating to his GoFundMe page, and helping fund organizations doing good work on the ground.

"It gives them hope, it gives them a chance at life," Maman said of people in Iraq. "People are going to know his story."

UPDATE: Tamo arrived in Winnepeg early Thursday morning. As reported by Winnepeg Free Press, "Thank you, Canada," were among the first words he spoke on the country's soil. A photo of him reunited with his family, posted on Twitter by a Radio Canada journalist, can be see below. His mother is to his left, and his uncle is to his right.

This story has been updated to reflect that Tamo arrived in Canada Thursday morning before dawn, not Thursday night, as original reports suggested. 

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