Colleagues talking during a meeting.

So Canada is Bringing Back ISIS Women – Now What?

Phil Gurski · Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting · Posted: June 17, 2020

A lot of countries have been dragging their feet on what to do with the so-called foreign fighters for ISIS

One of the more troubling phenomena in the terrorist world over the past few years has to be the rise and rule – note that I am not saying rise and ‘fall’ as the group has not disappeared – of ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria). Many terrorist organisations do awful things to people but no bunch did acts of violence more heinous than the denizens of the so-called ‘Caliphate’.

ISIS was successful in attracting tens of thousands of wannabe jihadis who all made their way to Iraq and Syria from over a hundred countries. They came from all walks of life, all socioeconomic levels, all kinds of reasons. They all drank the koolaid given by the leaders of ISIS claiming that the one true Islamic regime had returned, mixed in with apocalyptic scenarios wherein the brave, heroic mujahedin (self-styled ‘Islamic warriors) of course all go to heaven.

The litany of crimes against humanity committed by these characters is a long one and not one that I can, or want to, list. Suffice to say we have seen beheadings, drownings, hangings, tossing live humans off buildings, stonings…there is no end to their disgusting behaviour. These are all well documented and the perpetrators deserve to be punished.

The problem in all this is to gather enough material in a foreign land during a time of war that meets the evidenciary standards of Western courts: local courts don’t seem to really care about standards of justice and have a tendency to quickly try, condemn and execute all within a few minutes. We have a different way of doing things in this part of the world, including here in Canada.

These challenges are, I believe, why most countries (yes, Canada too) have been dragging their feet in repatriating captured ISIS ‘soldiers’. They left our fair land of their own accord to join a terrorist group, committed untold crimes while on the ‘battlefield’ and did not die for their cause as so many of their brothers and sisters did. They now languish in prison or refugee camps, asking to be brought home to their lands at taxpayer expense. Some advocates have pushed the government on this file, accusing them of ‘abandoning’ Canadians, albeit ones that made the poor choice of hooking up with a terrorist group.

All this is being brought to a head with the news that Canadians detained at a sprawling camp for ISIS families in northern Syria have been photographed and fingerprinted in recent days as part of an operation to register them so they can be sent home. For the aforementioned advocates this is all about time. For the security services I imagine they would prefer not to have to devote resources to make the case for arresting and charging these terrorists.

As I and many others have advocated for months, we should have repatriated the children immediately. Furthermore, they should have been placed with extended family or state care until such time as the fate of their parents was decided. No mother or father who willingly took their child to live with a terrorist group like ISIS is a fit parent.

The women are a different story. They are likely not all the innocent dupes they pretend to be, claiming they did not know what they were getting into. Some may have participated in violent acts themselves, or acted as facilitators. The bottom line is that the mere decision to join ISIS is a crime.

There is also the problem of whether to allow local justice systems to deal with them. After all, the offences for which they are accused were committed in Iraq or Syria, not Canada. Who are we to demand that a sovereign nation not be given the opportunity to try criminals and terrorists on their own soil.

So it is apparent that some of these women will soon be back with us. What will happen then? Will their children be removed for their own safety and counselling? Does the government have enough to charge the females? Will they get off scot-free? Will they go through ‘deradicalisation’ and rehabilitation programmes? Will CSIS have to investigate them? Will they radicalise others here or, in the worst case scenario, which appears very small, plan and carry out attacks here? No one has any answers to these questions.

The more fundamental question is what do we think of women who joined a bunch of Islamist criminals who raped little girls, stoned ‘adulterers’ and threw gays off buildings? Are we ok with saying ‘let bygones be bygones’?

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this blog post are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the Professional Development Institute of the University of Ottawa.

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