Canadian-Somali Woman Denies Claims She Belonged to Terrorist Group Alshabaab

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Canadian officials claim Ayan Jama was a supporter of al-Shabab.

Somalilandsun: An Edmonton woman denied a passport because the Canadian government believes she was a member of the terrorist group al-Shabab is challenging the constitutionality of the law used to prevent her from travelling.

Canadian officials claim Ayan Abdirahman Jama, 31, was a “senior” member of the East African extremist organization, facilitated travel of at least one radicalized Canadian to Syria, sought martyrdom and had plans on her laptop to build a bomb. A February federal court decision says she supports both the Islamic State and al-Shabab and “was reported having expressed extremist views.”

While she has never been charged with a crime, the Canadian government in 2018 denied Jama a passport on national security grounds, claiming it was “necessary to prevent the commission of a terrorist offence.”

A Canadian citizen born in Mogadishu, Somalia, Jama currently lives in Edmonton. She denies the government’s claims and says the information being used against her is false.

“The allegation that I facilitated extremist activities is shocking and completely baseless,” Jama said in an April 2018 affidavit. “I have never, and would never, facilitate extremist activities. These allegation are extremely vague, and even dangerous, as it has been used to infringe on my liberty as a Canadian citizen.”

“I believe that I am being singled out and targeted by Canada because of my faith and the specific manner in which I observe my faith,” Jama added in an affidavit dated Aug. 30, 2019.

Through her lawyer, Avnish Nanda, Jama declined to comment.

TRAVELLED TO SOMALIA

In 2018, Jama launched a judicial review of the government’s decision, seeking a passport and a ruling on the constitutionality of the Prevention of Terrorist Travel Act (PTTA).

The law, adopted in June 2015, allows for secret hearings and redacted evidence in cases where the government believes disclosure could put individuals or national security at risk.

According to a federal court decision, Jama travelled from Toronto to Somalia in 2010, when she was 20 or 21. Courts records indicate her mother lived in Somaliland, a previously independent region in Somalia’s northwest.

A February 2020 federal court decision says Jama eventually married a man named Mohamed Sakr, who Canadian authorities allege was a “senior figure” in al-Shabab stripped of his British citizenship on national security grounds.

Sakr, who Jama maintains was not a member of al-Shabab, died in a drone strike in February 2012.

Prior to that, in July 2011, Somaliland police arrested Jama at her mother’s home in Hargeysa. The reasons for the arrest are unclear — one court filing says she was suspected of violating her visa conditions. Local media, cited by the Canadian government, reported that the woman arrested was a “senior member of (al-Shabab).”

An armed Islamist militia stands by a house engulfed by flames on May 12, 2010 in the Harar-Yale village of Wardhigley district, Mogadishu. The fire started allegedly during mortar exchanges between Islamist insurgents and African Union-backed government forces. Ayan Abdirahman Jama allegedly lived near Mogadishu around this time. ABDURASHID ABDULLE / AFP/Getty Images

Jama was deported to Dubai. She allegedly tried to reenter through neighbouring Djibouti, but was rearrested. She was eventually sent to the U.K. and later deported to Canada.

‘SHAHEED’

Jama says she never facilitated terrorist acts, has not been knowingly in contact with any extremists and never helped anyone travel to Syria.

Two major pieces of evidence against her come from her laptop, which she says Somaliland police shared with Canadian authorities.

One is her will, in which she expressed her desire to be a “shaheed,” which the Canadian government says is synonymous with “martyr.”

Jama claims the word is being misinterpreted, saying a shaheed is simply a term for a pious Muslim and that the word has no violent overtones.

Authorities also claim the laptop had a folder titled “explosives,” which allegedly contained instructions for building a plastic nitrogen bomb.

Jama said she never had any such files, but admitted her ex-husband had access to the computer. “I do not know if the Somaliland authorities are mistaken, fabricated the story that my laptop had these files, or added them to the laptop.”

As for media reports that she was a senior al-Shabab figure, she said they came from an unreliable Somali “tabloid.”

“Almost every piece of the articles were incorrect except for my name,” she said in an affidavit.

The Canadian government also relies on classified information which “cannot be released as its disclosure would be injurious to international relations and/or national defence,” court documents state. A heavily redacted 2019 affidavit filed by a Justice Canada employee repeatedly says a CSIS brief contradicts Jama’s claims.

EVIDENCE ‘HIDDEN FROM ME’

Jama initially applied to renew her passport on Dec. 31, 2015. According to her court filings, Jama didn’t learn the Canadian government considered her a threat until February 2018, when Immigration Canada informed her of the allegations and banned her from reapplying for four years.

In court filings, Jama says the denial of a passport has damaged her standing in her community, claiming she was even briefly asked to leave her mosque because of the allegations against her. Not having a passport also prevents her from going on Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca Muslims are obligated to undertake at least once in their lives.

Jama told court it is impossible to fully defend herself because, under the PTTA, “most of the information that is the basis of Canada’s position is hidden from me.”

“The limited disclosure I have received is unfair and makes it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to provide a full and robust case against Canada’s claim that I plan on engaging in acts of terror or constitute a threat to national security,” she said.

No dates have been set for Jama’s next hearing.

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