LONDON: A Canadian woman who fled home to join Daesh is set to return after an intervention from a former US diplomat who took up her case.
The decision by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government to recover the woman contrasts with the policy of other Western countries forbidding “jihadi brides” to return.
Analysts expect that this repatriation will put more pressure on Western governments to accede to demands from the Middle East and from US President Joe Biden to change their approach to former Daesh bride recoveries.
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken told members of the anti-Daesh coalition that the situation in northern Syria, where thousands of foreign fighters and their family members live in camps, was “untenable.”
The Canadian woman’s four-year-old daughter was released from Al-Roj camp in March on humanitarian grounds. It is the same camp where Shamima Begum, who fled east London for Daesh in Syria aged 15, is being kept. She is currently fighting the British government over its decision to strip her of her citizenship.
The Canadian woman, meanwhile, is currently in Iraqi Kurdistan, where Peter Galbraith — the former US ambassador to Croatia who assisted her — enjoys a close relationship with local leaders.
Galbraith has also been involved in efforts to reunite Yazidi women and children with their families.
He said the woman had proved her rejection of Daesh’s ideology was genuine.
Galbraith added that her renunciation of the terror group had put her at risk from loyalists that remained in the camp.
He told The Times of London: “I have been in contact with her for a year and she has provided a lot of information that was valuable to law enforcement, so she was kind of a special case.”
There are more than 10,000 foreign women and children in camps in northeast Syria. There are a further 60,000 from Iraq and Syria. Their futures hang in the balance, with both Western and regional populations unwilling to receive people who joined Daesh.
But the Kurdish-led administration that governs the areas is urging countries to take responsibility for foreign captives.
The Canadian government has affirmed that it will allow women and children to return from Syria.
Citing security grounds, it has failed to send its officials into the war-torn areas where its nationals remain.
This has led to Canadian women depending on private assistance like Galbraith’s.
The former envoy — who was Washington’s diplomat in Croatia during the war of independence — said he could “understand” why Britain and other European countries were steadfast in rejecting the return of former Daesh members, but added that children had to be repatriated.
He said they were growing up in appalling conditions where jihadist training continued.