One year ago, Joanna Palani took the fight to Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. Now, she’s on trial in Denmark and is subject to death threats by ISIS.
Joanna Palani is in serious trouble with both the Danish government and Islamic State, for very different reasons.
Although Ms Palani is the daughter of Iranian Kurds, she grew up in Denmark where her family were granted asylum. Her adopted country has now put her on trial for flouting a travel ban and joining a foreign armed group. Meanwhile, ISIS have offered an award of $1 million for her murder.
Just over a year ago, Palani – daughter and granddaughter of Peshmerga fighters – dropped out of university in Denmark, where she was studying politics, to travel to Syria and Iraq and help in the struggle against Islamic State. Palami fought with both the Kurdish People’s Protection Unit (YPG) in Northern Syria and Peshmerga forces in Iraq. In 2015, after almost a year fighting on the front, Palani was given permission to return to Denmark. However, as soon as she set foot on Danish soil, authorities retained her passport. She was then taken into custody, accused of joining a foreign armed group.
Palani is currently on trial. If convicted she faces the possibility of spending two years in jail. Denmark recently introduced new passport laws which prohibit Danes from travelling abroad to take part in armed conflicts. It is under these new laws – principally designed to stem the flow of fighters to the Middle East – that Palani is being tried.
‘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?’ Palani posted on Facebook shortly after her passport was confiscated.
On 6 June 2016, just a few months after she’d been banned from travelling, the 23-year-old defied authorities by flying to Doha. Now, six months later, her trial has just got underway. Meanwhile, the terrorist group has taken to social media to offer a reward for her killing. Let’s hope that neither onslaught is successful.