Canadian women fleeing ISIS territory surrender to U.S.-backed forces in Syria
Two Canadian women have surrendered to U.S.-backed forces after fleeing the last patch of ISIS territory in Syria, amid debate over how Ottawa should deal with such detainees.
“I believe in Sharia wherever Sharia is,” a 28-year-old from Toronto, who gave her name as Dure Ahmed, told CNN. She said she did not regret what she had done.
Another Canadian, who said she was from Alberta, claimed her husband told her that traveling to ISIS territory was obligatory for Muslims. “I was just trying to be an obedient wife,” she said.
On Friday, France 24 reported a 46-year-old Canadian had also arrived at a local camp. She told a reporter she thought ISIS was doing “good” things.
WATCH: Exclusive: ISIS fighters’ Canadian wives want to return home
Prof. Alexandra Bain, the director of Families Against Violent Extremism, said two Canadian women contacted her last weekend from the ISIS-held town of Baghuz and she encouraged them to surrender to the SDF.
“I explained that pretty much anywhere they would run to, they’d end up getting picked up by either the Kurds or the Iraqis,” Bain told Global News.
“They were only getting ISIS’s version of the war and had no idea of what was actually going on.”
Communicating through a social media application, she said she reassured them they would be treated humanely and helped them get to a location where they could surrender.
She described them as “afraid and uncertain,” and she said had not heard from them since they had gone into SDF custody.
She declined to identify the women or explain what they were doing in ISIS territory, but the other detained Canadian women are from Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto, and had married ISIS foreign fighters.
7. The number of overseas recruits to ISIS coming out of this pocket is stunning. This 28-year old woman, mom of two toddlers, said she was from the Lawrence Heights area of Toronto. She said her name was Dure Ahmed. She came out with a 34-year old Canadian woman from Alberta: pic.twitter.com/9QQnEsfvOU
— Rukmini Callimachi (@rcallimachi) Feb. 7, 2019
Two women, and their four children, are the latest Canadians to be detained by the Syrian Democratic Forces, the Kurdish-led armed group that is poised to retake the final town under ISIS control.
Their surrender brings the number of Canadians held by the SDF to at least 21, mostly children. Six are women and four are men, including two self-admitted ISIS fighters from the Toronto area.
Thousands have reportedly been leaving the last ISIS pocket near the Iraqi border in recent weeks, among them suspected foreign fighters and their families.
WATCH: Families Against Violent Extremism urges government to repatriate citizens from Syria
In a statement on Monday, the U.S. State Department said the SDF was now holding hundreds of captured ISIS foreign fighters and called on countries to repatriate and prosecute them.
But Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale told reporters on Tuesday his priority was public safety and collecting evidence for prosecution. He condemned parents who had put children in such a situation.
“We will examine carefully what can reasonably be done to protect those who are innocent in these circumstances,” Goodale said. “But this is a situation which Daesh [ISIS] has created and to which those who have gone to that part of the world to participate have also contributed and they need to shoulder their responsibilities.”
WATCH: Conservatives complain of ‘deafening silence’ in Liberal plan to bring Canadian ISIS fighters to justice
The SDF is holding women and children in detention camps in Syria’s Kurdish-controlled northeastern region. Bain, who has been working with the families of Canadians detained in Syria to urge the government to bring them home, said the conditions were not good.
“Thirty infants have died in the last few weeks, frozen on the way or dying shortly after reaching Camp Al Houl. Tent fires in the camps have taken more lives. A raging fire last week resulted in the death of yet another infant, and these fires are frequent,” she said.
“The Kurds are doing the very best they can. The West has depended upon them to fight ISIS, and now we are leaving them to care for what should be Canadians’ responsibility, the lives and well-being of our own citizens.”
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