ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan24) - The Kurdistan Region Security forces rescued a Russian family who fled their former recruiter, the Islamic State (IS) extremists in Syria and Iraq, and seeks pardon.
The Kurdistan Region Security Council’s (KRSC) Counter Terrorism Department assisted and protected Dimitri Mikhailovich and Natalie Nicolai, the regretful Russian couple and their two young children who are stuck some 3000 kilometers away from home.
In an exclusive interview with Kurdistan24, Mikhailovich said that he converted to Islam six years ago.
"Practicing Islam in Russia was an uplifting experience," he said.
But his image of Islam was shattered when he eventually made his way to the self-proclaimed capital of Islamic State.
Three years into conversion, Mikhailovich traveled to Europe where he was told that he should go to Syria where the Khalifa of Muslims is located.
Feeling loyal to his newfound haven in life, Mikhailovich made his way to Istanbul, Turkey and then to Urfa and eventually to Raqqa, Syria.
He was initially welcomed by the group and was nicknamed "Russian Omar."
But joining the Islamic State came at a heavy price. Mikhailovich was severely injured in an airstrike and lost a hand.
To receive proper medical treatment, he was transported to a hospital in Mosul. The move while suffering a physical injury made his vision less blurry.
Before he was fully recovered and aware that a lost arm can never be regained, he started regretting his decision.
Thus he contacted Russian Consulate who then asked the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to help Mikhailovich family escape IS and be sent home.
The former jihadist is grateful to Kurds for having rescued and sheltered him and his family.
"The Kurds saved us. They were kind and respectful and fed us upon arrival. Even in Tal Afar, I had heard about Kurds' hospitality towards the ones who surrender. The rumors about Kurds turned out to be true," he said.
"WE WERE DECEIVED"
Natalie Nicolai, the mother of Omar and Ilana and pregnant, told Kurdistan24 that they were deceived and mistreated.
"IS would not let me leave the house and denied my children education and a comfortable childhood. We were moved from house to house," said Natalie who was nicknamed Aysha by IS.
Fearful for her and her children's future, she vows to be smarter in making life-altering decisions.
"If I am saved this time, I will never ever repeat this mistake. I will dedicate my life to my children. I will be the Muslim I was when in Russia," she said.
Mother of three also urged other IS fighter to put down their weapons since the represent a misguided Islam.
"I urge all fighters to leave the group. Islamic State has chosen the wrong path, " she concluded.
The family of four which is expecting a third child are now safely sheltered by the Kurdistan Region Security Council, and arrangements are made with the Russian government to send them home.
The family is not sure where their new child will be born and what his or her name will be, but they are determined to save his childhood and not let the third child be as displaced and deprived as the other two.