Mother of Canadian girl freed from ISIS detention camp in Syria heading to Canada soon

·3 min read
Children and women in Al-Roj detention camp near the border between Syria and Iraq. A Canadian woman who had been held in the camp has been issued documents by the federal government so she can return to Canada and be reunited with her daughter, who was released from the camp last March. (Stephanie Jenzer/CBC - image credit)
Children and women in Al-Roj detention camp near the border between Syria and Iraq. A Canadian woman who had been held in the camp has been issued documents by the federal government so she can return to Canada and be reunited with her daughter, who was released from the camp last March. (Stephanie Jenzer/CBC - image credit)

The Canadian government has issued an emergency passport to the mother of a young girl who was freed from an ISIS detention camp in northeastern Syria earlier this year so she can return home to Canada and reunite with her daughter.

"It's going to be the best moment of my life," the woman told CBC News. "That moment is all I've been thinking about this whole time."

CBC News is not naming the woman because of security reasons, and to protect her daughter.

The woman and her daughter were being held in a Syrian detention camp for people with alleged ties to ISIS.

Her daughter, age four, was released from the camp this spring and returned to Canada. The woman exited the camp months later but has since been waiting in limbo around the city of Erbil in neighbouring Iraq.

"I thought it would be an easy road back to Canada. I wasn't expecting to be here for four months," she said.

A copy of an Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada letter sent to the woman's lawyer, Paul Champ, was shared with CBC by Champ.

"Needless to say, our client is overwhelmed and happy," he said.

"Its been over eight months since she saw her daughter and four months of waiting in Erbil, [Iraq]. And she hasn't been to Canada in over seven years. We expect she will be on a flight very early next week."

Working with former U.S. diplomat Peter Galbraith, the woman was able to get her daughter, who was four at the time, out of the Al Roj camp last March and into Iraq, from where she flew to Canada. The woman returning to Canada said conditions in the camp are horrendous and "worse than people imagine."

The camp houses more than 700 families of suspected ISIS militants and is under the control of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces.

"The women and the children in the camps live in tents, the tents are hot in the summer ... they are freezing cold in the winter," Galbraith said. "The sanitation is unspeakable."

Submitted by Human Rights Watch
Submitted by Human Rights Watch

The woman left Canada in 2014 — neither she nor her lawyer have said if she intended to join ISIS and support its attempt to establish a new Islamist state in the region. The woman said she is not a threat to Canada.

She said she has spoken to the RCMP about her planned return, but it remains unclear how Canadian authorities will handle her arrival in Canada.

"I hope I'm given the opportunity to stay in my daughter's life and just make amends," she said. "Hopefully the Canadian government can see that I'm not a threat."

Galbraith helped get the mother released from the camp a few months after her daughter left, before she arrived in Erbil awaiting the proper documents from the Canadian government.

On Nov. 11, the government issued her an emergency travel document.

"While the government of Canada is unable to guarantee the safety and security of Canadians outside of Canada, Canadian officials have engaged with the competent local authorities in support of [name redacted's] continued safety in Erbil," the letter said.

"The local authorities are well aware of the importance Canada place on her well-being,"

The Canadian government has been under pressure from human rights advocates to repatriate and provide adequate consular assistance to dozens of citizens currently detained in northeast Syria — along with their children in some cases — because of alleged ties to ISIS.

A 2020 report from the U.S.-based Human Rights Watch accused the government of flouting its international human rights obligations and urged Ottawa to bring all of its detained citizens home from camps and prisons controlled by Kurdish forces to rehabilitate them and prosecute anyone accused of a crime.

WATCH | Women describe life in ISIS detention camp:

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting