A Canadian man has travelled to Syria on his own in a desperate attempt to rescue a little girl he has identified as his orphaned niece.
The uncle arrived in Syria this week but has been frustrated in his efforts to meet Amira and carry out DNA testing to prove her identity. CTV News agreed not to reveal his name -- at his request -- over fears there could be repercussions against his family.
The man’s two Canadian brothers were killed fighting for ISIS, along with their wives and children, with the exception of Amira, who was four years old at the time.
She was found wandering alone and taken to the al-Hol refugee camp where thousands of other ISIS family members are being held.
“It is clear that the government does not have the will to act on Amira’s case,” he wrote after crossing the border.
“I have exhausted all my options in Canada and have travelled to Syria in an attempt to rescue my poor niece.”
In a year-end interview with CTV News, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau admitted he was aware of Amira’s case, but claimed it was too dangerous to send Canadian diplomats into the region.
“I am here and can attest that the region is safe,” wrote the uncle. “I arrived with nothing more than hope and a passport—no body guards or security details.”
“If an ordinary citizen can accomplish this, why can’t the government?”
For now, he has been unable to obtain permission to visit Amira—it’s believed she’s being looked after in an orphanage after being removed from the sprawling detention camp.
“The hatred for detainees and their families in this region is palpable,” he wrote in a second note.
“It is clear that exposing myself as a family member of a detainee—even a four-year-old child—would threaten my safety in both Syria and Iraq.”
The Canada director of Human Rights Watch, Farida Dief, issued a statement condemning the Canadian government for not doing enough to help Amira.
“This is the story of a desperate uncle trying to bring his orphaned niece home to Canada. It’s also the story of a government that continues to drag its feet on the return of its nationals held in Northeast Syria.”
A spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada told CTV News that they will not specifically discuss Amira’s case due to privacy issues and that Canada has little ability to provide help “given the security situation on the ground,” but is concerned about reports of Canadians detained in Syria and is monitoring the situation.