ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – A Kurdish youth from Tuz Khurmatu (Khurmatu) was freed on ransom on Monday, six months after being kidnapped by a militia group within the Iranian-backed Shia Hashd al-Shaabi.
Hemin Kazim, a Kurdish youth from the disputed town of Khurmatu, was detained and kidnapped by a Hashd al-Shaabi militia group at a Daquq security checkpoint, southern Kirkuk Province, following the Oct. 16 military takeover by Iraqi forces and Shia militia groups.
“My son, Hemin, has been tortured a lot. His health condition is unstable, and he is under medical observation,” his father, Kazim, told Kurdistan 24 on Monday.
He mentioned that he had been tortured on a daily basis by the militia group, without naming the faction within the Hashd al-Shaabi, also known as the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF).
According to Hemin’s father, following his son’s abduction, his family were prepared to hold a funeral as they no longer believed he would be released.
Kazim revealed that Hemin has been trafficked and sold several times between different militia groups.
Kazim explained that they had found the whereabouts of the young man through friends and well-connected people.
“He was hidden in one of the fields in the city of Baqubah, Diyala Province,” the father continued. “After paying a $15,000 ransom, we were able to free our son and reunite him with his family.”
Comprised of over 50 different groups and factions, the Hashd al-Shaabi was formed after top Iraqi cleric Ali al-Sistani in late 2014 issued a fatwa to protect Shia shrines in central and southern Iraq from the threat of the Islamic State (IS) attacks.
Over the past years, Shia militias have been accused of operating under the direct command of Tehran rather than Baghdad.
On Oct. 16, Iraqi forces and Iranian-backed Shia Hashd al-Shaabi militias attacked and took over the province of Kirkuk and other disputed territories in retaliation to the Kurdistan Region’s Sep. 25 referendum on independence.
According to the UN, in the aftermath of the October attack, over 180,000 people, mostly Kurds, were displaced from Kirkuk and other disputed cities and have been the targets of arsons, lootings, and sectarian threats.
Editing by Nadia Riva