A Canadian woman stranded in Iraq for four months will be issued an emergency passport, allowing her to fly home and be reunited with her five-year-old daughter, CTV News has confirmed.
The move marks a significant moment for human rights groups, who have been pressuring Canada to repatriate the approximately 35 women and children now being detained in a detention camp in northeastern Syria.
The young woman, who under a court order can only be identified by her initials “SA,” was released from the camp in July and has been marooned in the Iraqi city of Erbil ever since, while waiting for temporary travel papers, a procedure that should take days, not months.
In a letter from the Department of Justice, Canada essentially relented and said the woman would be issued travel papers immediately.
“It is unconscionable that Canada would block a citizen from returning home until they are sued in court,” Paul Champ, the woman’s lawyer in Ottawa, told CTV News.
Champ had accused Canada of deliberately holding the woman in forced exile as punishment for her past links to ISIS. She travelled to Syria in 2014, where Kurdish forces seized her after fighting ended in 2017.
She has largely refused to talk about why she went to Syria and what she did there.
“Exile as a punishment is something from the Middle Ages,” Champ said in an email. “As a country that purports to uphold human rights and the rule of law, it’s simply shameful.”
SA is the only Canadian woman to leave the camp, after agreeing to become an informant for the FBI. Her release was arranged by a former American diplomat with deep ties to the ruling Kurds.
Her daughter, who was born in 2016, was taken out of the camp last March and flown to Canada. SA was not allowed to go with her.
“This was amazing news and my client and her family are so happy,” said her lawyer. “There were a lot of tears. My client’s daughter won’t be told that her mother is coming until she’s on the flight.”
The woman could face terrorism-related charges once she returns to Canada, which could happen in the coming days.