“I would give my life for Europe, for democracy, for freedom and for women’s rights.” – Joanna Palani
ISIS social media channels have offered a 1 million dollar reward for the death of Joanna Palani, a Kurdish-Danish currently facing trial in Copenhagen for violating a travel ban.
Palani first left Denmark in 2014 after dropping out of university, when she traveled to Syria to fight for the People’s Protection Unit (YPG). She then went on to join the Peshmerga forces in Iraq, the Kurdish Regional Government’s Western-backed army, after becoming inspired “to fight for women’s rights, for democracy – for the European values I learned as a Danish girl.”
As a consequence, Palani was issued with a year-long travel ban and had her passport confiscated by police and Danish intelligence agency PET. Palani is the first foreign fighter to be jailed under new passport laws, and if found guilty of violating the ban, could face up to six months in prison.
“How can I pose a threat to Denmark and other countries by being a soldier in an official army that Denmark trains and supports directly in the fight against [Isis]?” she posted on Facebook shortly after her passport was confiscated.
The new passport law is one of many measures being taken by the country to reduce the amount of citizens traveling to aid in the fight against ISIS.
In an interview with Lara Whyte for Broadly last year, Palani revealed some horrifying tales of the war in Syria and spoke of the reason she decided to leave her student placement to fight against ISIS militants and Assad’s troops.
“I wasn’t taking it seriously when I first came there. But after the first attack I did. I took it seriously indeed,” Palani said. “I would give my life for Europe, for democracy, for freedom and for women’s rights.”
During her first night on the front lines, her comrade was killed by a sniper after seeing smoke rise from his cigarette. However, despite the daily dangers she was faced with, she did not regret her choice to leave Denmark.
During her time in Syria, Palani and her battalion found a number of young girls trapped in a ‘holding house’ after freeing a village near Mosul from ISIS. The girls had been sexually abused by the ISIS militants.
“All the girls were under 16 – some were really young. I met this girl in the hospital we had to bring them to,” Palani explained in the interview for Broadly.
“She was a Syrian Christian and she died holding my hand because she was 11-year-old and she was pregnant with twins. Her little face was so swollen. It just wasn’t right. I remember the doctor crying and yelling at me and my first soldier.”
The irony of Palani’s trial has not gone unnoticed. Erbil Kaya, Palani’s lawyer, noted, “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.”