Zaynab Khadr

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Zaynab Khadr
Zaynab Profile.png
Zaynab Khadr (?) in 2008
Born 1979 (age 37–38)
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Nationality Canadian
Home town Toronto, Ontario & Peshawar, Pakistan
Spouse(s) 1)Khalid Abdullah, m. 1997-divorced 1998;
2)Yacoub al-Bahr, m. 1999-divorced 2002;
3) Joshua Boyle, m. 2009-divorced 2010[1][2]
unknown, post-2012, 2 more children
Children Safia Khadr, 2 others
Parent(s) Ahmed Khadr
Maha el-Samnah

Zaynab Khadr (in Arabic زينب خضر) (born 1979) is the eldest daughter and first child of Ahmed Khadr, a prominent Egyptian-Canadian citizen noted for charitable work among Afghan refugees in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and suspected of being a terrorist and al-Qaeda member. Two of her younger brothers, Abduramhan and Omar, were held by the United States as enemy combatants in the Guantanamo Bay detention camp after being captured in Afghanistan in 2002.

With her family, she grew up in Pakistan and Canada, as they frequently traveled back and forth. Following a severe 1992 injury that left her father disabled, Zaynab became a "second mother" to the younger children of the family.[3] She was married and divorced three times, and has a daughter from her second marriage.

She and her widowed mother returned to Canada in February 2005. Khadr has since fought for the family members' legal rights to remain there. She has also worked for justice for her brothers. Abdullah Khadr was detained in Pakistan and resisted extradition to the United States; he finally returned to Canada in 2005. Abdurahman Khadr was also detained, but he had claimed to have been working for the United States CIA when he was held as a detainee in Guantanamo Bay detention camp, 2002-2003. In October 2010 her youngest brother Omar Khadr pleaded guilty to charges in a plea agreement, and was repatriated to Canada in 2012 to serve the rest of his eight-year sentence.

On January 31, 2016, Michelle Shephard and Peter Edwards, writing in the Toronto Star, reported that Zaynab had been apprehended, in Turkey.[4]

Early life and education[edit]

The 12-year-old Zaynab with her brother Abdulkareem in arms.

Zaynab Khadr was born in Ottawa, Ontario[3] in 1979, the eldest daughter and first child of Maha el-Samnah and Ahmed Khadr, Egyptian-Canadian citizens. Her father was in graduate school.[3]

The family moved to Pakistan in 1985, where her father worked for charities assisting Afghan refugees after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The children went to school there and were also home schooled by their mother. Zaynab has five younger brothers: Abdullah, Abdurahman, Abdulkareem (known as Kareem), Ismail (died), and Omar, and a younger sister.

In July 1995, her father arranged for the 15-year-old Zaynab to marry Khalid Abdullah, an Egyptian, in December. Her mother began preparing an apartment for the couple in the family's house in Pakistan.[3]

On November 19, 1995 Ayman al-Zawahiri bombed the Egyptian Embassy in Pakistan. Named as one of the conspirators, Zaynab's fiancé Abdullah went into hiding.[3] When police arrived eight days later to arrest her father on suspicion of involvement, Zaynab grabbed his rifle and screamed at them, while her mother barricaded the door.[3]

Zaynab later recalled having celebrated the engagement of her friend Umayma al-Zawahiri at the girl's family house in an all-day party. Umayma's father, al-Zawahiri, had knocked at Umayma's door to ask the two girls to keep their singing and partying quiet as it was nighttime.[5]

Marriage and family[edit]

In October 1997, Abdullah re-surfaced in Tehran and contacted the Khadr family to re-schedule the wedding. Khadr agreed to take his family on a long vacation, which they ended in Iran. They said farewell to Zaynab, by then reluctant, as she started a new life with Abdullah.[3] Six months after the couple began living in a rented Tehran apartment, Abdullah phoned his father-in-law to report that Zaynab was inconsolable at being separated from her family. The marriage was not working out, and Zaynab returned to live with her family.[3]

In 1999, Zaynab was introduced to Yacoub al-Bahr, a Yemeni who had fought in Bosnia. He was better-known as a wedding singer in Kabul, Afghanistan. Her father asked the boys of the family to vote on whether he should give his consent to the marriage, and did so after Abdurahman and Kareem voiced their enthusiasm; the younger Abdullah and Omar abstained.[3] The wedding was in Kabul. Both al-Zawahiri and Osama bin Laden attended. Zaynab later explained that nobody was individually invited, and that word of mouth informed interested parties about the open invitation to their upcoming wedding.[6] The couple moved into a separate wing of the Khadr household.[3]

The following year, Zaynab and her mother returned to Canada for several months late in her pregnancy, where she gave birth to a daughter, named Safia.[3] After returning to Afghanistan and introducing her new child to Rabiyah Hutchinson, Zaynab was advised to take her daughter to a doctor. Safia was diagnosed with hydrocephalus and required surgery, which Zaynab decided would be better performed at a Canadian hospital. Her husband disagreed, and insisted that a hospital in Lahore would be just as effective. When Zaynab insisted on taking her daughter to Canada, al-Bahr separated from her and left the household permanently.[3]

In late 2001, Ahmed Khadr encountered al-Bahr in Kabul; he advised him that he should either return to his wife and daughter, or consent to a divorce. After receiving written reassurance from Zaynab that she would not seek any form of restitution, al-Bahr agreed to a formal divorce.[3]

Life in post-invasion Afghanistan[edit]

In January 2002, Zaynab took Safia and Abdulkareem to Lahore for a stay at the hospital, where her daughter needed medical attention. Her brother Abdullah later joined them, since he required surgery to remove cartilage from his nose.[3]

He disappeared later that year, as did their younger brother Omar, not yet 16; she learned later that they were both being detained by the United States as enemy combatants at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp.

In 2003, Zaynab, her daughter and her mother stayed at a house in Birmal, Pakistan for two days, before their hosts grew wary of American jets overhead. They moved further into the mountains of Waziristan.[7] Her father was killed in October 2003. Zaynab moved to Islamabad, where she lived for some time in a rented apartment with her daughter and younger sister.

In her book Wanted Women Deborah Scroggins describes meeting Zaynab while she was a house-guest of Khalid Khawaja, in Islamabad, Pakistan, in 2004.[8] According to Scroggins, Zaynab told her that the time she lived under the Taliban was "the best five years of my life."[page needed]

Permanent return to Canada[edit]

Zaynab (?) filming HRW proceedings in 2007.
Zaynab, flanked by her grandfather and daughter in Toronto.

Although her passport had been revoked by the Canadian High Commission in Pakistan after her father was alleged to be a terrorist, Khadr returned to Canada on February 17, 2005 to be with her mother, and help the legal defence teams of her brothers Abdullah and Omar.[6][9] Zaynab and her widowed mother Maha are both on passport "control" lists, meaning they will no longer be issued Canadian passports. This is due to the frequency with which they have reported losing their passports since 1999.[10]

When Zaynab returned to Canada, security officials, including Konrad Shourie, met her at the airport bearing a search warrant. It was based on the statement that she "has willingly participated and contributed both directly and indirectly towards enhancing the ability of Al Qaeda." They seized her laptop, DVDs, audiocassettes, diary and other files.[11][12] The security officials said that, through the computer files, they were able to determine the present locations of multiple al-Qaeda veterans, though they had no evidence to charge her. Zaynab said she had purchased the computer second-hand seven months before her trip.[13] After the expiry of the three-month limit on holding the items, the court granted the RCMP a one-year extension on June 18.[14][15][16]

On October 5, 2009, Isabel Teotonio, writing in the Toronto Star, reported on the extradition hearing for Zaynab's brother Abdullah Khadr. She wrote that Canadian officials had seized a hard drive from Zaynab that had belonged to her father.[12] Although Zaynab has indicated a desire to one day return to Pakistan, her Canadian passport remained withheld, for many years, rendering her unable to leave the country. According to Mark Steyn, after the death of Osama bin Laden, Zaynab Khadr was "disconsolate at the death of Osama, and has adopted his mugshot as the photo for her Facebook page."[17]

Apprehension in Turkey[edit]

According to a January 2016 report from Michelle Shephard and Peter Edwards, in the Toronto Star, Zaynab left Canada, for Turkey, in 2012, shortly after her brother Omar was returned to Canada, to finish out his sentence.[4] They reported that she married again, for a fourth time, and bore two more children.

They reported that they had learned she was being held in Turkey.[4][18] They noted that Turkey had been criticized by human rights workers for holding tens of thousands individuals, without charge. They noted that they didn't know why she was being held, whether it was over a criminal concern, or an immigration matter; and they didn't know whether she had been formally charged, or was being held in extrajudicial detention.

The National Post reported Turkish diplomats, in Ottawa, would not comment on her case.[19]


Khadr (?) at Parliament Hill handing out badges reading "OMAR" to passersby in 2008.

In 2004, Zaynab appeared in a PBS Frontline documentary entitled Son of al Qaeda, during which she said concerning the September 11th attacks:[20]

"We don't like seeing people killed...[a]t the same time, when you're seeing your people being killed and killed and killed, everyday, everyday, everyday, and then you see whoever is doing this...being killed, you don't want to feel happy. But you just sort of think, "They deserve it. They've been doing it for such a long time, why shouldn't they feel it once in a while?"[20]

Most news stories reported only that she had supported the attacks, mobilizing public sentiment against the family.[21] Zaynab has worked to arrange legal support for other Canadians accused of militant actions in the war on terror, notably attending the bail hearings and preliminaries for the men and youths arrested in Toronto in 2006. Her presence has caused a stir in the media, while she maintains that many of the accused were friends of the family.[9]

In July 2008 clips from secret surveillance recordings at Guantanamo of Omar's first visit from Canadian officials were made public.[22] The clips stirred controversy, as they showed Omar being pleased, when he thought he was finally going to get help from Canadian officials; and they showed him weeping uncontrollably when he realized these Canadian officials were security officials, interested only in helping the CIA exploit him as an intelligence source. Global TV interviewed Zaynab and her mother who described being "devastated" by Omar's distress.

In October 2008, Zaynab began an 18-day hunger strike on Parliament Hill, where she hoped to draw attention to the government's inaction in bringing her brother Abdurahman back to face trial in Canada.[23]

Her brother Omar Khadr was released to Canadian custody at the end of 2012.[4] In 2014 he was moved to a medium-security prison.


  1. ^ "Canadian held in Afghanistan: Who is Joshua Boyle?". June 4, 2014. 
  2. ^ "U.S. government botched chance to rescue Canadian hostages in Pakistan, American soldier says". National Post. June 12, 2015. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Shephard, Michelle (2008). Guantanamo's Child. John Wiley & Sons. 
  4. ^ a b c d Michelle Shephard, Peter Edwards (2016-01-31). "Omar Khadr's sister Zaynab detained in Turkey". Toronto Star. p. 2. Retrieved 2016-02-01. Khadr had moved to Turkey around the time her younger brother Omar was transferred from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to Canada in September 2012. She reportedly remarried and had two young children. 
  5. ^ Wright, Lawrence, The Looming Tower, 2006
  6. ^ a b Michelle Shephard (2005-02-27). "Daughter of alleged terrorist returns: RCMP meets her with search warrant". Cageprisoners. Archived from the original on 2008-10-09. Retrieved 2016-02-02. 
  7. ^ McGirk, Jan. The Independent, "The lonely world of al-Qaeda's wives", April 4
  8. ^ Deborah Scroggins (2012). Wanted Women -- Faith, Lies & the War on Terror: The Lives of Ayaan Hirsi Ali & Aaafia Siddiqui. Harper Collins. pp. 303, 304, 305–306, 428. ISBN 9780062097958. Retrieved 2013-06-16. 
  9. ^ a b "Accused terrorists' families supply drama", Toronto Star, July 7, 2006
  10. ^ Shephard, Michelle and Tonda MacCharles. Toronto Star, "Shadow of CSIS will follow Khadr", December 3, 2003
  11. ^ "Khadr laptop seized at Toronto airport: report". CTV News. March 3, 2005. Retrieved 2008-01-13. 
  12. ^ a b Isabel Teotonio (2009-10-05). "'A grenade launcher in every house': Fighting extradition to the U.S., Canadian Abdullah Khadr testifies that when you go fishing in Afghanistan, you do it with a bomb". Toronto Star. Retrieved 2009-10-05. 
  13. ^ "Canada Discovers AQ Information Trove", Ed Morrissey, Captain's Quarters, June 15, 2005
  14. ^ "RCMP can hold items of Khadr family member, judge rules" , CBC, June 18, 2005
  15. ^ "Mounties uncover 'Al Qaeda' cache: Plans, tapes diaries seized at Pearson. Zaynab Khadr denies they belong to her", Toronto Star, June 14, 2005
  16. ^ Toronto hearing a window on terror probe, Toronto Star, June 18, 2005
  17. ^ Mark Steyn (May 7, 2011). "For Whom The Bin Tolls". National Review. 
  18. ^ "Omar Khadr's sister detained in Turkey". Ottawa Sun. 2016-02-01. Retrieved 2016-02-02. When she arrived in Toronto from Pakistan in February 2005, RCMP officers met her at the airport with a warrant. In her baggage, they found a laptop computer with al-Qaida videos, information about weapons, video clips from the Chechen conflict zone and the 2003 bombing of a British/American civilian compound in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and songs with such translated titles as I am a Terrorist and Strike and Kill the Infidels. 
  19. ^ Joseph Brean, Stewart Bell (2016-02-02). "Zaynab Khadr, outspoken oldest sibling of Omar, detained in Turkey". National Post. Retrieved 2016-02-02. Zaynab Khadr, the famously outspoken eldest child of Canada’s most notorious family, who has publicly praised Osama bin Laden and yearned for her own martyrdom, has been detained in Turkey. It is not clear whether she has been arrested or charged, and Turkish diplomats in Ottawa could offer no details on Monday. 
  20. ^ a b Terrence McKenna (2004). "Son of Al Qaeda". PBS. Archived from the original on 2016-01-13. Retrieved 2016-02-02. 
  21. ^ Shephard, Michelle. Toronto Star, "Khadr family views won't help Omar, lawyer says", September 9, 2008
  22. ^ Paula Simons, Jodie Sinnema (2008-07-15). "Khadr's mom, sister devastated". Global TV. Archived from the original on 2008-08-20. “It is upsetting, it’s very upsetting to us,” said Zaynab Khadr, Omar’s sister. “Especially the part where he was crying out. Out of the whole eight minutes, those were the two minutes that affected me the most. I felt it was very heartbreaking.” 
  23. ^ Michelle Shephard (2008-10-08). "Omar Khadr's sister stages hunger strike". Toronto Star. Retrieved 2008-10-19.  mirror