A Modern Day Schindler

Rescues girls from ISIS, says 'I cannot stand idle'

Iraqi and Christian girls as young as eight years old are raped up to 30 times a day, stuffed into cages, marched naked to be sold like slaves, and forced to undergo “virginity restoration” surgery.

Heard enough?

So has Steve Maman, a Jewish businessman from Canada who has made it his mission to ransom these girls living the unimaginable and return them to their families.

Maman, 42, founded Liberation of Christian and Yazidi Children of Iraq, or CYCI, a year ago after Mosul and Sinjar, Iraq, were taken over by ISIS, forcing more than 100,000 people to flee.


The Catholic publication Tablet reported that ISIS kidnapped 7,000 Yazidi women and girls and took them as slaves last August. An unknown number of Christian women and girls were also kidnapped. CYCI estimates that about 2,700 are still held captive — and that’s where Maman comes in.

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Modeling himself after Oskar Schindler, the German businessman who rescued Jews by hiring them for his factories and upon whom the movie “Schindler’s List” was based, Maman has made it his mission to rescue these young girls.

“We liberate children from their captors through the use of on-the-ground brokers,” he says on his website. “The price of a child’s life to remove them from the hands of ISIS is between $1,000-$3,000.”

“This is a finite problem that can be solved with money,” Maman told website The Algemeiner. “We need Christians to open up at the same rate as my Jewish friends have.”

Maman shares that his Jewish business partners, who have donated tens of thousands of dollar, have been “remarkably generous.”


How does Maman win the girls’ release? He first made contact with those in Iraq who could negotiate for the girls, and then raised thousands in Canadian dollars to finance his rescue operation. Last month, he started a GoFundMe page in a bid to raise half a million dollars. Last Thursday, he reached that goal.

The same day Maman reached his goal on GoFundMe, Pope Francis condemned the silence of the international community on the atrocities against humanity perpetrated by ISIS.

Maman has won the freedom of 120 girls so far, and they have been reunited with family. Many are sheltered in refugee camps.

In a letter to Iraq refugees, the Pope said: “Many times I have wanted to give voice to atrocious, inhuman and inexplicable persecution against people in many parts of the world – above all Christians – who are victims of fanaticism and intolerance.”

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Maman has won the freedom of 120 girls so far, and they have been reunited with family. Many are sheltered in refugee camps.

“I cannot, and will not, stand idle. I will not look at the daily reports and stay passive,” Maman said in a statement posted on his website.

In discussing the cost — $1,000-$3,000 per child — he says, “We, as avid consumers, spend that money on gadgets and tools. Why not spend that money to save a life?”

Maman is not without his detractors. Time, who terms Maman’s efforts a “controversial scheme,” said some are worried that Maman’s efforts will only aid ISIS’s efforts by funding them with ransom money, and that his actions will  encourage more kidnappings.

Amy L. Beam, a human rights activist, writer and researcher, has visited the refugee camps in northeast Turkey, and writes in The Kurdistan Tribune, “An estimated 3,000 girls and women with their children were kidnapped by ISIS. They are subjected to repeated beatings and rape by ISIS fighters who each was given one girl as a war trophy.”

Maman felt compelled to act, regardless of these potential downsides, citing Schindler as his inspiration.

“What if someone told Oskar Schindler that what he tried to do at the time of the Holocaust was incomprehensible and impossible?” he asked.

Then, he answered his own question: “Nothing is impossible.”

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