“The Return: Life After ISIS” Hot Docs Canadian Premiere

Dual Canadian-US citizen Kimberly Polman who left Canada, her husband and three children after she saw on Facebook nursing skills were required by the caliphate

Kudos to Alba Sotorra for holding a hot potato and making a documentary that features several women from Canada, United States, Germany and the Netherlands who fled their countries to join ISIS. Neither their government nor the media is willing to forgive them. Should we viewers forgive them?

It would appear all fell prey to ISIS propaganda films and ISIS dominated social media platforms. They thought they were on a noble mission as did the ISIS fighters.

So approximately 100,000 of ISIS women and children sit in Kurdish detention camps one of which Sotorra was given access to. While the ISIS fighters languish in jail their wives and children sit in Kurdish detention camps waiting for a fate they have no idea of. At best their countries are willing to accept their children but not the mothers. The U.S. State Department calls one of the U.S. ISIS wives a traitor. The women are counselled by Sevinaz Evdike a Kurdish women’s rights activist who lost family members to ISIS.

Perhaps the most chilling scene is some young boys in the detention camp playing and talking amongst themselves that jihadists are invincible, no one can harm them and if they should die they will ascend to heaven immediately. What sort of heaven would accept men who buy their wives at sex markets? Or the caliphate saying marriage at 9 for a girl is acceptable?

The detention camp is so very far from home for these “Westerners” but they have a common bond in that they feel duped and victimized. In the hands of ISIS they were subject to forced marriages, imprisonment, rape and the particularly misogynist perverted form of Islam eschewed by the “men of ISIS”.

The women in the film regret their mistakes and ask for a second chance. But their home governments do not want them to return. That would require forgiveness and the electorate may not be sympathetic to the women that defected to the barbarian camp.

You’ll hear each of their stories and decide for yourselves if they were victims of their naivete and character or are simply expressing remorse because they are on the losing side. They certainly paid a heavy price but I don’t see any evidence they harmed anyone. Their existence also must be somewhat precarious surrounded by burka clad ISIS wives many of whom may have no regret.

So the question to you is after seeing the film should these governments and their electorate exercise some compassion and forgive? Not an easy question to answer. Sotorra who lost friends in skirmishes against ISIS says, “The only way, out for all of us, is to leave hatred behind and start over with compassion, forgiveness and understanding.”

This Spanish and UK production is a 90-minute-long film. It is one of the 15 films in the Special Presentations program.

The Toronto Hot Docs Festival runs from April 29-May 9. The full lineup will be announced March 23rd. You can access the Hot Docs website here https://hotdocs.ca/p/hot-docs-festival

Published by Robert K Sephen (CSW)

Robert K Stephen writes about food and drink, travel, and lifestyle issues. He is one of the few non-national writers to be certified as a wine specialist by the Society of Wine Educators, in Washington, DC. Robert was the first associate member of the Wine Writers’ Circle of Canada. He also holds a Mindfulness Certification from the University of Leiden and the University of Toronto. Be it Spanish cured meat, dried fruit, BBQ, or recycled bamboo place mats, Robert endeavours to escape the mundane, which is why he has established this publication. His motto is, "Have Story, Will Write."

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