Two Edmonton women were returning to Canada on Thursday after the government facilitated their release from a prison camp for ISIS suspects caught in Syria.
Global Affairs Canada confirmed the women were being repatriated along with three children. The women are believed to be Helena Carson and Dina Kalouti, the mother of the kids.
The sisters-in-law were supposed to have been released in April, along with four other Canadian women and 10 children, but they could not be located at that time.
In a press statement, Global Affairs Canada said it had taken “extraordinary steps” to bring back the remaining women and children eligible to return to Canada.
“We reiterate that it is a serious criminal offence for anyone to leave Canada to knowingly support a terrorist group and those who engage in these activities will face the full force of Canadian law,” the statement said.
The Alberta Court said a warrant had been issued for Carson’s arrest on a terrorism peace bond. The RCMP would not say whether the women would face terrorism charges.
Nine women from Alberta, Ontario, Quebec and B.C. have now been released from the crowded prison camps for suspected ISIS families in Syria.
Only one has been charged with terrorism offences in Canada so far. None of the four men in custody in Syria have yet been brought back.
“It’s a good day,” said Ottawa lawyer Lawrence Greenspon, who represented the women’s families in a Federal Court case against the government.
He said Canadians should be reassured that most of the women who have returned from the ISIS camps have been arrested on terrorism peace bonds upon arriving in Canada.
Peace bonds are intended to protect public safety by imposing restrictions such as ankle monitors, house arrest and internet bans on suspects.
In a series of text messages to Global News, Carson’s mother said her daughter was only “accused” and her involvement in ISIS remained unproven.
“My daughter puts her trust in God and lives by no fantasy any longer that she will be treated fairly or with the respect she deserves,” she wrote in the 2021 message.
Carson is married to Kalouti’s brother, Yazan, who is believed to be among four Canadian men still in custody in northeast Syria.
The only Canadian woman now remaining at the camps is a former Montreal resident who did not qualify for Ottawa’s help because she was deemed a security threat. Her six children are with her.
Kurdish fighters took thousands of foreigners into custody during the 2019 battle to recapture the parts of Syria seized by ISIS.
Four years later, only a handful have returned to their home countries, according to figures released by the Kurdish Peace Institute.
Of the roughly 2,000 male foreign ISIS fighters held by Kurdish forces, just 74 have been repatriated by their governments, the Washington, D.C.-based institute said.
Canada is among the countries that have declined to bring back any men — although one, Toronto ISIS executioner Mohammed Khalifa, was taken to the United States.
Of the 12,500 foreign women and children held by the Kurds, only about 20 per cent have returned to their countries, according to the figures.
Global Affairs Canada refused to help the Canadian women until their families filed a case in the Federal Court seeking their repatriation.
The government brought back four women and their children on April 6. None were charged. The RCMP instead arrested three of them on terrorism peace bonds.
Another two returned to Canada last October. One was arrested on a peace bond and the second, Oumaima Chouay, was charged with terrorism.
The four Canadian men who remain in custody in Syria include self-admitted ISIS sniper Muhammad Ali, a former resident of Mississauga, Ont.
The Federal Court had ordered the government to repatriate the men, but officials appealed and the decision was overturned.
The Kurdish-led administration that controls northeast Syria intends to put the foreign ISIS members in its custody on trial.
“They will be public trials – monitors, observers, experts, lawyers, will be welcome to these trials,” the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria said.
“These will be fair trials.”
The Canadian Security Intelligence Service warned in its latest annual report about the long-term threat posed by what it called Canadian Extremist Travellers (CETs).
“Although CET returnees may not immediately or directly engage in extremist violence, they still pose a national security risk,” the report said.
“In time, CETs may engage in extremist activities such as fundraising, maintenance of domestic and international networks, radicalization and/or recruitment.”
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