As It Happens

Danish woman who fought against ISIS faces jail time over travel ban

A Danish woman who joined Kurdish forces in the fight against ISIS was arrested in Denmark for violating a travel ban that has typically been used to curb the flow of would-be Jihadi fighters to the Middle East.

Such travel bans have been used to curb the flow of would-be Jihadi fighters to the Middle East.

Joanna Palani joined Kurdish forces in the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. (Facebook)

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A Danish woman who joined Kurdish forces in the fight against ISIS was arrested in Denmark for violating a travel ban that has typically been used to curb the flow of would-be Jihadi fighters to the Middle East.

"She's very furious about this because she doesn't think she deserves to be in jail because she has been fighting for democracy, fighting for people, for children," Joanna Palani's lawyer, Erbil Kaya, told As it Happens host Carol off today.

"Not only fighting for people in Syria but also for people in Europe and Denmark and the punishment is that they take the passport from her and put her in jail."

Palani, 23, was given a 12-month travel ban in September 2015, but admitted in court last week to travelling to Doha, Qatar last June.

Denmark reserves the right to seize the passports of any citizens who join in a foreign conflict.

It's a rule that has been used to prevent Danes from travelling to places that may make them a national security threat.

She is seeing that children were killed, women were killed, men were killed," he said. "And also she has a a Kurdish background [that gave] her the feeling she had to do something for mankind.- Erbil Kaya, lawyer to Joanna Palani.

The matter is a serious one for Denmark— a country that has the second highest number of Jihadists per capita in Europe.

Kaya said that while Denmark's parliament made a law forbidding people from going to fight for ISIS, the law "didn't exactly say about the people fighting for the Kurds or YPG." 

Palani, he says, went to fight after seeing the atrocities occurring in Iraq and Syria. 

"She is seeing that children were killed, women were killed, men were killed," he said. "And also she has a a Kurdish background [that gave] her the feeling she had to do something for mankind."

Palani's lawyer says she is "furious" about her arrest. (Facebook )

A "hypocritical" punishment?

While Palani did break her travel ban, many, including her lawyer argue that it's hypocritical for her to potentially face jail time for fighting against the same threat Danish soldiers are fighting against in the U.S.-led coalition. If found guilty, she faces up to two years in prison.

Palani, who is of Iranian and Kurdish heritage, was born in a refugee camp in Iraq in 1993. Her family immigrated to Denmark in 1996.

In an interview with The Guardian, Kaya argued there is even more hypocrisy involved considering the leniency returning ISIS fighters have received.

"It's a shame. We are the first country in the world to punish a person who has been fighting on the same side as the international coalition," he said.

"It's hypocritical to punish her. Why don't we punish the people who fight for ISIS instead of people who are fighting on the same side as Denmark?…I don't think it makes sense," he said, referring to Denmark's treatment of returning radicalized fighters who, including offering free psychological counselling, job search assistance and school placements. 

The Aarhus Model, as it is known, refers to Denmark's second largest city where such assistance has been offered.

The program is designed to dissuade young people from choosing to go fight alongside the Islamic State or al-Qaeda.

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