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Canada arrests two female citizens upon repatriation from Syria detention camp

October 27, 2022 at 5:23 pm

Women, reportedly wives and members of Daesh, walk under the supervision of a female fighter from the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) at Al-Hol camp in Syria on 17 February 2019 [BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images]

Canadian police arrested two Canadian women who were repatriated from a detention camp in north-east Syria, subjecting them to court trials based on suspicions of terrorism.

The arrests of 27-year-old Oumaima Chouay and 50-year-old Kimberly Polman were conducted upon their arrival at Montreal’s Trudeau Airport this week. According to a statement by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), Chouay is accused of four crimes including participating in a terrorist group, leaving Canada to do so and making property or services available for terrorist purposes.

She was reportedly under investigation by the Integrated National Security Enforcement Team (INSET) since 2014. As for Polman, she allegedly travelled to Syria in 2015 at the behest of her husband, who she met online. Both women were kept in the Al Roj detention camp in north-east Syria for years, following the territorial defeat of Daesh.

According to Global Affairs Canada, two children were also repatriated from a detention camp in north-east Syria during this latest Canadian operation.

While Chouay is subject to her four charges and appeared in a Montreal court yesterday afternoon, authorities did not lay charges on Polman – a dual Canadian-US citizen – and, instead, are seeking a peace bond, according to the latter’s lawyer, Lawrence Greenspon.

READ: Canada intelligence smuggled Shamima Begum into Syria for Daesh, new book says

Representing Polman and 22 other Canadian men, women and children who are being held in Syrian Kurdish-run detention camps, Greenspon told the Emirati newspaper, the National , that “the only thing I can surmise” is that police “do not have the same kind of evidence” against Polman as they do Chouay.

According to a court document obtained by CBC News, the peace bond sought by the RCMP states that authorities have reasonable grounds to fear that Polman may commit a terrorism offence, leading her to being asked to enter into a “recognizance for a period not exceeding 12 months with the conditions fixed by the judge”. If she refuses, she could reportedly be sentenced to up to a year in prison.

Canada, like many other Western nations, have for years stalled the process to repatriate their citizens from the camps in north-east Syria, being cautious of the threats to national security returnees could allegedly pose.

Earlier this year, UN human rights experts called on Canada to speed up its repatriation process, especially for Polman due to her poor health. “Victims or potential victims of trafficking should not be placed in situations that expose them to multiple forms of abuse,” the UN experts stated at the time. “The failure of their home state to protect individuals in such situations perpetuates and contributes to further victimisation of those who have already experienced violence and trauma.”