Joanna Palani is a 23-year-old Kurdish-Danish woman who was born in a refugee camp in Iraq, to a family that was later granted asylum in Denmark. Growing up in Denmark, Palani says that she was inspired “to fight for women’s rights, for democracy - for the European values I learned." This led her to drop out of university and join the Kurdish Peshmerga, a resistance group against the Islamic State, operating in northern Syria and Iraq, in 2014.
In a bizarre turn of events, the Danish government confiscated her passport and imprisoned her in the high-security prison Vestre Fængsel in Copenhagen. Joanna has been charged with leaving the country in violation of a 12-month travel ban that was imposed on her in June 2015. If convicted, she could be sentenced to two years of imprisonment.
The decision has been denounced widely as the Danish government, in an effort to stem the flow of youngsters joining ISIS, offers jobs and psychological counselling to those who return.
Erbil Kaya, who represents Palani, called the government's decision "hypocritical".“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. 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.”
Meanwhile, the ISIS has announced a $1 million reward for killing Palani, who has been receiving death threats for the last two years. It could be argued that the Danish government's move is for Palani's own safety, but the double standards employed in the treatment of the two sets of convicts- the likes of Palani and returning militants- definitely begs discussion.
Title image: sputnik