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She wanted to rebuild Syria, but then the police took her passport

This is a translation of an article originally published by the Danish newspaper Politiken on March 4, 2019, written by Frank Hvilsom.

We want to clarify that the translated article below is not representing the opinion of ‘Make Rojava Green Again’ and is also containing false information. YPG/YPJ are described as military arms of PYD. The PYD is one of many political parties in the region. The YPG/YPJ are the self defense forces of the society and like this widely recognized by the whole population.

33-year-old Anne Dalum is a declared pacifist and wanted to travel to Syria to help an NGO rebuild the Rojava region. Before she got that far, her father contacted PET (the Danish intelligence service), and shortly after the police confiscated her passport. Today, her father is regretful. Abuse of the passport law, says lawyer.

     Photo: Peter Hove Olesen

Thursday, the 20th of December, Anne Dalum is sitting in the back seat of her parents’ car on the way to their cottage on the North Sea to celebrate Christmas with her family in Jutland.

“We are sitting and doing our own thing. My father is driving the car. My mother sits next to him,” Anne Dalum explains.

She is preoccupied with thoughts of her upcoming trip to the northern autonomous region in Syria, which goes under the Kurdish name Rojava. She will join the project Make Rojava Green Again which is working with ecological restoration, wind use and reuse of water.

Anne Dalum bought tickets and her departure is on January 7. This plan her parents are strongly opposed to.

“My father just told to me that it is unintelligent to leave,” she tells of the ride.

Then there’s a ringing of her father’s phone, which is located in a holder on the dashboard.

He answers the call, the phone is on speaker-mode, and a friendly female voice says in the car: “Hello, this is the Police Intelligence service”. The woman wants to hear if the father has time for an interview.

“Then my mother yells no! She turns of the sound. My father is completely quiet. He does not even answer.” For a few seconds, time stands still.

“I’m shocked. I stare at him and say, what did you do, Dad? Have you contacted the PET? Are you crazy? You know how they look at people like me? “.

The police ring the bell

A few weeks later, the day before her departure on January 7, a couple of officers from the Copenhagen Police knock on the door to Anne Dalum’s residence in Copenhagen.

They ask whether she intends to leave, and then they revoke her passport. The police can do this, they explain, according to a tightening in the passport law of 2015, which will help to prevent the recruitment of foreign fighters into armed conflicts.

They also assign her a sanction in the form of a ban on travelling outside of Denmark for a year. Now she can not, for example, visit friends in Malmö in Sweden. Anne Dalum is shaken. It was never, she told the officers, my intention to go to Syria to go to war. Her aim is to help in the reconstruction of the Rojava region, whose population has played a central role in the war against Islamic State.

She wants her passport back, and so she goes to a lawyer. The passport law provides the opportunity to ask the police to try their decision in court. The case was opened last Thursday at a preliminary hearing in the court in Frederiksberg. It is the first time a case of passport revocation from someone declared not to be a foreign fighter is to be tried in the court system.

In the ruling by the Copenhagen Police, which Anne Dalum was handed on January 6, the police refer to a statement by the PET a few days earlier, saying that a person traveling to Syria will pose a danger to national security and be a significant threat to public policy, unless the person has a creditable purpose. According to the police, Anne Dalum does not have such a purpose.

In the ruling, the police wrote that they “find reason to believe” that she will also participate in “activities in Syria,” as it is briefly formulated, which may involve “a danger to national security.” They conclude: “The journey does not have a creditable purpose”.

It was revealed at the preliminary hearing that the police apparently does not suspect Anne Dalum to participate in an armed conflict. The prosecutor from the Copenhagen Police, Sabine Mosegaard Sørensen, declared that the very presence in the region and the very purpose of the project is not creditable.

She elaborated that Anne Dalum, in a region controlled by the Kurdish military units may “be influenced to such a degree, that she will pose a danger when she comes home.” Subsequently, the prosecutor did not want to comment further on the case.

Anne Dalum’s lawyer, Erbil Kaya, calls the case unusual. He does not believe that she should be subject to the passport law.

“The purpose of the law was to stop radicalization, so people subsequently do not become a problem. This is something else.

She does not want go to fight. Neither are there any information indicating that. She wants to travel for humanitarian reasons. She wants to go down there to help. Is the law intended to stop her if she wants that?”, he asks.

In the car on the way to the vacation in the cottage on the North Sea in December last year, the parents and Anne Dalum continue their drive after the call from the PET. The Christmas spirit is lost.

“I get nervous for what the PET will do. I think to myself that my life will not be the same again. You know which kind of consequences there are, once the intelligence service begins to monitor you,” she says.

She demands answers from her father about what he has said to the intelligence service.

“I want facts. Did he tell them my name? I think to myself: Okay, they’ve seen my mail. They have seen my Facebook, and they have seen that Anne Dalum likes all kinds of things about Rojava and leftist things. They have seen my plane ticket. ”

It is only a few days before a Danish woman and her Norwegian friend is found dead in a mountain area in Morocco.

“I think my parents are afraid of what will happen to me. What they know about Syria are kidnappings and beheadings. But in the region where I was going, the war never reached, and there is international protection in the area.” In the car her father assures her that he had done no more than contacting the PET to obtain information on the security situation in Syria. But his daughter is skeptical.

Eyes on Rojava

Anne Dalum is 33 years old and grew up in the town of Vejen in southern Jutland. She has a bachelor’s degree from Copenhagen University and a master’s degree in literature and culture from the University of Lund in Sweden. Since 2005, she has been living in Copenhagen, Malmö and London.

She describes herself as a libertarian Socialist.

“I have some alternative ideas about how society should look like,” she says.

When she moved to Copenhagen, she was attracted to the milieu around the Youth House on Jagtvej. “I liked the values that were fought for, but when the house was cleared in 2007, I was at my father’s anniversary in the company where he works,” she says.

Last year, she was helping to enter Slagtergårdene in Vesterbro in Copenhagen, which were about to be demolished. In connection to this, she is awaiting a fine for trespassing. She has not been convicted of anything.

In 2012, she took an interest in the so-called revolution in Rojava. Rojava, which is also known as the Democratic Federation in Northern Syria, has since grown to become an autonomous, stateless area run by the Democratic Union Party, PYD.

According to commentator and author Pola Rojan Bagger, who has a thorough knowledge of the area, the PYD works for a democratic confederation of political and economic self-organized units linked together in flat structures. The main political themes are rejection of the nation state, of clan structures, patriarchal structures and conservative social norms.

“You can easily go there and be active politically, socially or agriculturally.

It is easy to be in Northern Syria without having to fight. It is a normally functioning society. You can not just come down there, grab a Kalashnikov and shoot over the hill. That’s not how it works,” said Pola Rojan Bagger.

A special characteristic is the strong women’s movement and practical gender equality, for example, when positions for political offices are to be filled. The region consists of both Muslims and Christians and it is the PYD movement’s stated goal to create a secular area of peaceful coexistence between the various groups.

“There is a plethora of social, ecological, sustainable non-military organizations, deminers, planters, wood or water supply projects, created under the PYD,” he explains.

Unlike its sister party the PKK, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, the PYD is not on any terrorist list. PYD has two military units, YPG and YPJ, which is the women’s army, both of which currently form the backbone of the international coalition in the fight against ISIS, and which are under the protection of US forces and aircraft in the area.

Denmark is part of the coalition with YPG and YPJ, and various international forces stationed in Rojava.

According to Turkey expert Deniz Serinci who has traveled in the area, Rojava acquired a mythical status among internationally oriented leftist environments that currently have eyes on the region.

“It is absolutely plausible that one can go there and take part in the building work without fighting. But perhaps the PET thinks that when a person has expressed its support for Rojava, then it’s hard to know what the person will do down there,” he says.

“But if you as a Dane do something abroad that may have links with the PKK, then you risk getting legal problems.” The revolution in Rojava corresponds to Anne Dalum’s political ideas, which she has never made a secret of. Neither on Facebook or in private.

“It is inspiring. I spent so much of my spare time to do solidarity work with a society, that I have not been in, so in order to better understand it I would like to contribute to the society,” she says.

She is the only one in Denmark, she says, which works for Make Rojava Green Again.

“I’m attracted to the fact, that it is about life and growth”. Early December, she travels the town of Vejen to let her parents know about her plans. “I told them I knew they would be concerned, but I would be fully available for all questions and talk about it.”

The letter to the PET

Monday, February 18, Anne Dalum meets her lawyer to review the case before the preliminary hearing. In the file, she sees a letter that her father has sent to the PET after his call to the intelligence service in December, where he would inquire about the security situation in Rojava.

In the letter, he expresses his concern for his daughter and asks whether the PET has the legal basis to prevent her departure.

The case was subsequently transferred to the Copenhagen Police.

Anne Dalum feels the process is humiliating.

“I am 33 years old. I am neither naive nor brainwashed. It is terribly humiliating that my father did not talk to me instead of going to the PET. I would not go at all costs. When I bought my plane ticket, the situation in the region war secure. If I do not have to go down there, it must be due to a rational consideration of a changed security situation. Not because of my father, not because of the police.

It is invasive and an abusive. Both from my father and from the state,” she says.

Anne Dalum had a return ticket for the 21st of January. Her plan was to continually monitor the security situation in the region, and she made daily assessments of whether it would be safe for her to go. She told her family. On the other hand, if all went well, her plan was to go into the area and be there for six months.

Anne Dalum’s father, Kristian Dalum, told Politiken that he regretted his letter to the intelligence service.
“We were of course afraid of what might happen. That we could lose her. Might she be killed? Get in a crossfire, run into a desperado with bombs in his belt? I was also nervous that she might be punished back home for travelling to this country. Whether it was directly punishable”, he says.

Kristian Dalum is 66 years old and works in a company selling farm equipment. He says he recognizes her daughter’s political position.

“She is a 33-year-old gifted academic, and I should not control her life. She has been very open about wanting to go and I should have trusted her. Now I just want my relationship with my daughter back.” He thinks that he in the process was seized by the thought that if she was hurt, he could not have forgiven himself if he had not acted.

“I have of course done something that has meant that she will be under scrutiny of the Danish government and no longer has her full freedom. Now I do what I can to get her passport back so she can have the freedom she wants to travel wherever she wants. I do not see her as a security risk to the country. She is a pacifist,” said Kristian Dalum.

An attempt at mind control

Anne Dalum’s lawyer, Erbil Kaya, believes that the authorities’ reason for revoking the 33-year-old woman’s passport is an expression of attempted mind control.

“When you do not take the pass with regard to participation in the war, then the case must about whether the authorities do not like my client’s intellectual baggage. One must think that her values are not okay in conjunction with the prosecution’s statement that it in itself is problematic to be in the area. They say that the thoughts she has about the society down there, and the reconstruction, she wants to take part in, is not creditable. This is how I must understand it. I find that very far-reaching,” he said.

Erbil Kaya has previously appeared for two other people, Joanna Palani and Martin from Esbjerg, which he’s called, as the surname is not public, both of which have previously been deprived of their passports. In both cases they had openly declared that they would travel out to fight against the Islamic State. Joanna Palani is today serving imprisonment for violation of the travel ban.

In the preliminary work to the passport law, which came into force in January 2015, the focus is specifically on the ISIS fighters, holy warriors and to stop people who go out to fight, and thus may pose a threat.

At the time of passing the passport law, the former minister of justice, Mette Frederiksen (S), said: “It is incomprehensible and unacceptable that there are people in Denmark who travel to Syria and Iraq to fight with extremist groups. The government takes the threat of foreign fighters very seriously, and we strongly reject the behavior of these persons.” In a hearing in 2014, the legal think tank Justitia warned that the tightening of the passport law could lead to a situation like Anne Dalum’s.

According to Director Jacob Mchangama, he remarked back then that the scope of the law was vague and should be qualified.

“We problematized the required suspicion in the decisions and said that there should be clearer evidence of whether you pose a danger. And also that a travel ban should require weighty reasons. We warned that more or less loose utterances on social media could lead to a risk. That’s exactly what happened here,” he says.

In Copenhagen, Anne Dalum’s life has taken a sharp turn. Nothing is as before, she explains.

“When the doorbell rings, I think it’s the police. I wake up in the middle of the night when I hear a sound. I turn off my phone because of fear of tracking and surveillance.

Not because I have anything to hide, but because it is so invasive. I have felt very lonely in here, and I think the police can pop up anytime.” She has begun to take a break from demonstrations.

“It is possible that I am not on their radar, but I do not know. After all, it is written in the papers that I am a danger to state security and public order. It appears the state want to tell me that I can not contribute because of my opinions.” The case at the court in Frederiksberg has not yet been scheduled, but is assumed to be completed before the summer.


Anne Dalum and the family was in the car when his father’s mobile rang. The phone was on speaker. It was the PET that wanted talk to the father. That’s how Anne Dalum found out that her father had told the PET about her trip to Syria.


Anne Dalum got her passport revoked by the Copenhagen Police and baned from travelling out of Denmark for a year when she was considering going on a reconstruction project in the Rojava region in northern Syria. She would, among other things reside in the main city Qamislo.

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