‘I NEED HIM HOME’:

Fam­ily of Cana­dian man killed fight­ing ISIL in Syria ques­tions de­lay in re­cov­er­ing re­mains

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - DIANA ME­HTA

The mother of a Cana­dian man killed fight­ing Is­lamic State mil­i­tants in north­ern Syria is ques­tion­ing why her son’s body still hasn’t been re­cov­ered when the re­mains of a Bri­tish fighter who died on the same day were on the way to the United King­dom.

Naz­zareno Tas­sone, 24, was killed on Dec. 21 in the city of Raqqa, while fight­ing along­side the Kur­dish Peo­ple’s De­fense Units, a U.S.-backed group also known as the YPG.

His fam­ily in Ni­a­gara Falls, Ont., only learned of his death in early Jan­uary, when they re­ceived a letter from the YPG, which also said that his body had been seized by the Is­lamic State of Iraq and the Le­vant, known as ISIS or ISIL.

“I just want him home. I need him home,” Tas­sone’s mother, Tina Martino, said in an emo­tional in­ter­view. “I haven’t been at work. I just sit here, day af­ter day, wait­ing for the phone to ring and hope.”

The Toronto Kur­dish Com­mu­nity Cen­tre, whose lead­ers de­liv­ered the YPG letter to Martino, has said ne­go­ti­a­tions are un­der­way be­tween the YPG and ISIL to re­trieve Tas­sone’s body.

The cen­tre has also said that the YPG was si­mul­ta­ne­ously ne­go­ti­at­ing to re­cover the bod­ies of other fight­ers killed in com­bat on the same day as Tas­sone, in­clud­ing a Bri­tish vol­un­teer fighter named Ryan Lock.

Martino said she re­cently learned Lock’s body was re­cov­ered, mak­ing her won­der why her son’s body has not.

“I asked why wasn’t Nazz with Ryan, and the only thing they could say was that they be­lieve the two boys were not to­gether at the same time,” she said. “(The Toronto Kur­dish Com­mu­nity Cen­tre) told me at the be­gin­ning I was go­ing to have to wait four to six weeks. And now I don’t un­der­stand, he passed away on Dec. 21.”

Martino said she’s call­ing on the Cana­dian gov­ern­ment, the Kur­dish com­mu­nity and any­one who can help in the mat­ter to do what they can to bring her son’s body back to Canada.

“All I want to do is get my word out in ask­ing to get my son home,” she said.

Ih­san Kaya, co-pres­i­dent of the Toronto Kur­dish Com­mu­nity Cen­tre, said he’s been in con­tact with the YPG reg­u­larly about Tas­sone and noted that the Cana­dian man and his Bri­tish co-fighter may have been sep­a­rated but were be­lieved to be fight­ing in the same area.

“The YPG doesn’t have (Tas­sone’s) body yet but I hope we get the good news soon,” Kaya said, adding that the re­gion the YPG is fight­ing in is a volatile one with fast-shift­ing bound­aries.

Global Affairs Canada said of­fi­cials were in con­tact with lo­cal au­thor­i­ties to gather in­for­ma­tion and were also pro­vid­ing Tas­sone’s fam­ily with con­sular as­sis­tance.

A spokesper­son noted, how­ever, that “due to the un­pre­dictable se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion,” the Cana­dian gov­ern­ment’s abil­ity to pro­vide con­sular as­sis­tance in all parts of Iraq and Syria is se­verely limited.

Tas­sone left Canada in June, telling his fam­ily he was headed to Iraq and Turkey to teach English. His fam­ily had sus­pected, given Tas­sone’s long-stand­ing in­ter­est in the mil­i­tary, that he might get in­volved in the Mid­dle East con­flict, but it was only af­ter his death that they learned he’d been fight­ing in Syria.

Martino said she’s vowed not to have a fu­neral for her son un­til his body was repa­tri­ated.

“I said that there would be no fu­neral, there would be noth­ing. But now I don’t know.”

ADRIAN WYLD, THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Flow­ers and photos lie on the Tomb of the Un­known Sol­dier in Ot­tawa, at a me­mo­rial for Naz­zareno Tas­sone.

HAND OUT, THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Naz­zareno Tas­sone died Dec. 21 fight­ing ISIL forces in Syria.

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