Global Affairs Canada is still not confirming or denying that two Canadian women were found in what remains of Mosul, Iraq after fighting for ISIS forces.
But if the numerous reports are true, it will only confirm other reports that up to 20 women have volunteered to fight for ISIS and most of these have had children while in-theatre.
The news comes at a time when many Canadians are criticizing their government’s decision to compensate former al-Qaida militant Omar Khadr with a $10.5 million payment. Khadr was born in Canada and chose to fight with al-Qaida forces in Afghanistan, killing an American soldier and wounding another.
Jocelyn Sweet, a Global Affairs Canada spokeswoman, confirmed that the government has read the same reports and is investigating. “We are in contact with local authorities, and gathering additional information,” she said.
The same reports that suggest two Canadians were captured, say that at least 20 women were found in Mosul, hiding in a tunnel deep beneath the city. Iraqi soldiers talk of finding guns and suicide-bomb equipment inside the hiding place.
According to The National Post, anti-terrorism expert Amarnath Amarasingam, associated with the University of Waterloo in Ontario, has conducted numerous interviews with ISIS sympathizers who tell him that 15-20 Canadian women have left the country to fight with the terrorist organization and have had children with male members of the organization.
“With the fall of Mosul and as the fight in Raqqa intensifies, we are definitely going to see some foreign fighters or women try to surrender,” he informed The National Post via email. “So, (the report) is not entirely surprising.”
Amarasingam says many of the women are surrendering to Iraqi forces now that their husbands are dead.
The London Daily Telegraph has also reported that a German teenage girl, Linda Wenzel, is now in captivity after living her life near Dresden.
Phil Gurski, a former agent with the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) told the Post that the migration of women to ISIS is a unique phenomenon because other Islamic extremist movements have not attracted any interest. He suggests the difference is probably due to the intrusiveness of social media and how ISIS continues to adeptly use the internet to spread its message, indoctrinate followers and recruit fighters. Gurski suggests that some women are joining ISIS not just because they believe in the cause but because they are attracted by the pictures of the men they see on their computer screens.
“Some of it is for the glory of caliphate, some of it ‘Because I was bored,’ some of it ‘Because these guys were kind of hunky,'” said Gurski. “But … the one thing we have learned: we never saw females going to Somalia, we never saw females going to Afghanistan, we never saw females going to Bosnia in the ’90s. This is a real new phenomenon.”
Amarasingam, conversely, considers the sexual attraction factor as secondary, and thinks the women are just as committed to the Islamic extremist movement as their male counterparts.
“There’s this assumption that women are travelling just to get married or something, which is sometimes true, but mostly false,” he told The Post.