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Canadian businessman rescues Christian, Yazidi sex slaves captured by ISIS

Thousands of Iraqi Christian and Yazidi women have been captured and sold by Islamic State since last year, abused and turned into sex slaves. One Canadian is doing his best to return them to safety, frustrated that governments aren't doing enough.

The extreme violence began when Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) captured Mosul in June 2014. Since then, women and children – most of whom are Christians and Yazidis – have been brutally raped, tortured and sold as sex slaves for an average of US$160.

That reality was crushing for Canadian businessman Steve Maman, who jumped into action by launching the Liberation of Christian and Yazidi Children of Iraq (CYCI), an organization aimed at returning victims to their loved ones.

Maman says he cannot stand idle while women and girls – some as young as eight years old – are “being malnourished and are living in extremely inhumane conditions, being forced to sleep in cages at night,” he wrote on the CYCI website.

During an interview with RT, Maman elaborated on the inhumane conditions faced by those who have been captured and sold.

“They were sold at market to civilians and they were sold to individuals. Those individuals and civilians have been raping them for the past year, have been killing them, have been beheading them, have been burning them,” he said.

But Maman added that his organization, which operates on crowdsourced funding and money from the Montreal Jewish community, has managed to successfully save women and girls from a life of sex slavery.

“Through our group on the ground, we have a team, a CYCI team, that has made contacts inside the caliphate, and these contacts go back to these owners of these girls that have bought them,” Maman told RT.

He said the organization negotiates the victims' release from their captors in two potential ways: by reasoning with the captors, or refunding them the amount of money they paid.

“We are not funding [ISIS or the captors], we are refunding them,” Maman stressed.

Once the victims are brought to safety, Maman says the organization refrains from identifying them, as they have “already been through unimaginable humiliation.” He added that the families involved also prefer to remain out of the public eye.

“The families...want to be shielded. They don't want people to know that their daughters have been raped. They don't want the world to know who they are. They want their children to be married and have a chance at life,” Maman told RT.

But the Canadian says there is still a long way to go, as about 2,700 more women and children remain in captivity, according to the Office of Genocide and CYCI.

“Let's save them while we can. This is my message,” Maman said during a live RT broadcast.

But while the group continues its mission to save victims from inhumane conditions, some fear its tactic could lead to unintended consequences – such as encouraging the militant group to continue seizing and selling women and girls.

“I do not intend on criticizing those who are providing the money because their heart is in the right place. They're not responsible for this tragedy; quite the opposite. What I'm criticizing is the strategy of paying, because that will only reinforce the strategic logic of seizing more Yazidi women. All points in this chain are complicit and should not be benefiting from this outrageous behavior,” terrorism expert Max Abrahms told RT.