Some of the children have forgotten that they are Yazidi.
Mr. Hussein knows from his son, who is not being identified for his own safety, that he is being forced to work in construction for about $1 a day.
But without the $9,000 the captors are demanding for each of his six relatives, Mr. Hussein does not know how to bring his loved ones home.
Since he first made re-established contact with the child in the summer of 2020, Mr. Hussein said he scraped together $600 for one payment to the captor and $1,200 for another. But that was not enough to free the boy, and it was not even enough to enable his son to keep sending him messages.
Recently, Mr. Hussein said, the kidnapper contacted him again.
“A week ago, I was talking through Facebook to the guy holding them, and he told me, ‘If you want to talk to the kids, you need to pay me $300 for each time,’” Mr. Hussein said. “I told him I can’t afford that, but let’s stay in touch.”
Mr. Hussein now relies on aid organizations to survive in a camp on Sinjar Mountain, where he moved his family after a fire raced through the larger camp where they lived in the Kurdistan region.
“I did not want what remained of my family to burn,” he said.
He said three of his sons were captured by ISIS in 2014. A year later, he managed to borrow money to buy the freedom of his youngest son, captured when he was a toddler along with five other relatives who had been taken to Syria and then to neighboring Turkey. Mr. Hussein said his family paid $30,000 for all six of them and picked up their loved ones at the Iraqi-Turkish border.
From 2015 until 2020, he did not know the fate of his other two sons. In the summer of 2020, he learned it from other relatives still held captive.