Success stories of Palestinian achievers from all over the world

Maha AlSamnah

Personal Info

  • Country of residence: Canada
  • Gender: Female
  • Age: 0
  • Curriculum vitae :


Maha el-Samnah (born 1957 in Egypt) is the matriarch of the Canadian Khadr family, and widow of Ahmed Khadr. In 1995 Elsamanah and her husband founded a Canadian charity with a mandate to provide aid in war-torn Afghanistan and Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Agencies. It was later alleged that this charity cooperated with terrorists.

A shy teenager, Samnah moved to Saudi Arabia with her parents Mohammad and Fatmah as a child, and moved to Canada on August 1, 1974 at the age of 17, and her parents opened a bakery at the intersection of Eglinton Avenue and Midland. She attended T. L. Kennedy Secondary School in Mississauga, and hoped to become a doctor. As the only Muslim, she became self-conscious about her hijab and compromised by wearing a scarf over her hair.
Graduating in 1977, Samnah volunteered as a camp counsellor at Camp Al-Mu-Mee-Neen near Perth, Ontario. There she met Ahmed Khadr, a friend of the camp founder, a University of Ottawa student who had come to Canada two years earlier. She was impressed by his calmness and thought he was a good listener. The camp's director later described their meeting as "love at first sight".
They married in November, at Jami Mosque in Toronto. In May 1978, the couple moved to Ottawa so Ahmed could finish his studies. In 1979, Maha gave birth to Zaynab.

Achievements and Awards


In 1987, Ahmed convinced Maha to let her parents take care of their sickly son Ibrahim in Scarborough, claiming that she could help a hundred Afghan children in Peshawar by sending one of their children back to Scarborough Hospital for care. With Ibrahim gone, Omar quickly became his mother's favourite child, as she nursed him while walking through camps and hospitals, serving as a midwife.
In January 1988, Maha returned to Toronto with Omar to look after Ibrahim so her parents could visit relatives in the Middle East. He became sick, and was rushed to Centenary Hospital and admitted to the ICU. Brain death was declared the following morning, and Maha consented to having him removed from life support. The next day she bathed the corpse, dressed it in white and brought it to Jami Mosque for her brother to arrange burial arrangements while she booked a next-day flight back to Peshawar.
When Mohammad Zeki Mahjoub immigrated to Canada on December 30, 1995, he claims that it was his wife, Mona el-Fouli, who was friends with Samnah, and how he consequently ended up living with her parents for three weeks while he found himself an apartment.

1996 confrontation of Jean Chrétien
In 1995 Pakistani security officials apprehended Maha's husband Ahmed. Their daughter Zaynab's fiance was believed to have played a role in an embassy bombing. He had been living with the Khadrs, and disappeared after the bombing. Security officials believed that Zaynab's fiance had used one of the Khadr's vehicles in the bombing.
Ahmed spent months in extrajudicial detention. When Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien made a diplomatic visit to Pakistan, he found himself unexpectedly buttonholed by Maha, a Canadian citizen, with her children in tow, in front of elements of the Canadian Press Corps.[9] Her appeal to Chrétien to appeal to Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was broadcast on Canadian TV. When she made this appeal Maha only wore a head-scarf—her face was not obscured by a niqab. Chrétien did personally raise Ahmed's detention with Bhutto. Chrétien asked Bhutto to regularize Ahmed's detention; lay charges; schedule a trial—or whether he asked Bhutto to release him. Pakistan subsequently released Ahmed, without charge.
Fall of the Taliban
The family fled Kabul the day before its fall to the Northern Alliance, and made a temporary home in the Logar orphanage the night of November 10. Maha and Ahmed returned however to gather their possessions. While packing, Kabul's walkie-talkie communications ring began reporting that the Taliban had been defeated and the city was being overrun. Running out to their car, they saw wounded men filtering into the streets. Tossing out their computer and a chair, the couple made room in their backseat for three men who had been injured in an explosion. They reached the Logar Hospital at 2am, but were told that only two of the men could be treated. Speeding off with the third, they continued to another nearby hospital but arrived to find their passenger had succumbed to his wounds. Returning to their children at the Logar orphanage, they were informed that Abdurahman had decided to return to Kabul and spend the night with friends.
Accused of helping to finance terrorism, Samnah was listed as the joint director of her husband's Health and Education Project International charity.
In 2003, following the capture of Omar and the departure of Ahmed with Abdulkareem, Samnah took her daughter and granddaughter to a house in Birmal, Pakistan for two days, before their hosts grew wary of American jets overhead, and they moved further into the mountains of Waziristan.

Return to Canada

 Samnah after returning to Canada.
After a series of difficulties obtaining one-way "emergency travel documents", Samnah flew back to Canada with Abdulkareem on April 9, 2004, greeted by a throng of reporters and government agents at Pearson Airport. Samnah and her daughter Zaynab are both on passport "control" lists, meaning they will no longer be issued Canadian passports due to the frequency with which they reported losing their passports since 1999.
In 2004, Samnah appeared in a documentary entitled Son of al Qaeda;

"I like my son to be brave...I would like my son to be trained to protect himself, to protect his home, to protect his neighbor, to see a young girl innocent, being raped or attacked, to really fight to defend it. I would really love to do that, and I would love my son to grow with this mentality...[a]nd you would you like me to raise my child in Canada and by the time he's 12 or 13 he'll be on drugs or having some homosexual relation or this and that? Is it better? For me, no. I would rather have my son as a strong man who knows right and wrong and stands for it, even if it's against his parents."
Most news stories arising from the documentary correctly stated that Samnah believed that raising her children in Canada would cause them to be homosexual drug addicts, solidifying Canadian public sentiment against the family.
The CTV News reported on April 12, 2004, that her critics had initiated a petition to have Maha and her son Abdel Karim stripped of Canadian citizenship deported.[18] The petition requested Abdel Karim be stripped of Canadian citizenship, even though like all his sibling but Abdurrahman, who was born in Bahrain, he was born in Canada.
After returning to Canada with her disabled son some commentators started to refer to Maha as a "Canadian of Convenience".
Maha's eldest son Abdullah Khadr was repatriated to Canada after a year of clandestine detention in Pakistan. He was arrested, in front of his mother, at a McDonalds restaurant in Toronto. According to press reports Maha struck at the police officers who arrested him, but the police did not lay charges against her as well.
Her son Abdullah was held in a Toronto area jail for five years, while his lawyers fought against a request from the USA to extradite him to stand trial in Boston. Hearing were held several times a year, and Maha regularly reappeared in the news when she was interviewed by reporters attending these hearings.
In 2007 Michelle Shephard, author of Guantanamo's Child, reported Maha's comments on the first phone call her son Omar was allowed to make from Guantanamo.
In 2008, Maha was interviewed by the Canadian Press, following the broadcast of controverersial tapes made when Canadian security officials first interrogated her son Omar in Guantanamo. The tapes show Omar weeping for his mother when the interrogators left the room. She was later interviewed for You Don't Like the Truth: Four Days Inside Guantanamo, a documentary based on the interrogation tapes.
In 2009 Maha was widely quoted pleading for her son Omar's release.

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