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  • Niqab (Pascal Gerard / EPA) (EPA)Source: EPA
An increasing number of young Australian women are seeking to join the conflict between ISIS and national governments in Syria and Iraq. Experts say families of Australian youngsters who’ve gone overseas are frightened to speak out about it.
Esther Lozano and Maram Ismail

9 Apr 2015 - 1:04 PM  UPDATED 14 Apr 2015 - 11:38 PM


While the government says that up to 40 young women are joining or supporting the militant group, it is not releasing information of who or where they are. The families remain silent.



Community Advocate and Lawyer Lydia Shelly says the reason Australian families of these so called ‘jihadi brides’ are staying silent is because there’s distrust between the members of the community and the Federal Government.


Other Western countries are experiencing similar issues. The UK Government says 60 British women had travelled to Syria to become brides for jihadist fighters.


Listen to the story in Arabic HERE


Relatives and friends of Canadian, UK and American women who’ve left to join ISIS have been using the media to warn other families. 


But in Australia, the identities of the up to 40 women involved with ISIS have not been revealed.


The only two cases publicised in the media have been 22-year-old Amira Karroum, the first Australian woman killed amid infighting between rebel forces in Syria, and 21 year old Zehra Duman who travelled to Syria to marry Mahmoud Abdullatif.


Maha Abdo, from the Muslim Women's Association, says knowing more about which women are being radicalised will enable communities to better tackle the problem. “At the moment is like walking in the dark. Mothers are coming back to us and say: If there is please, tell us who they are and where are they, so that we can clearly clarify for our children not to go there and not to befriend those people."


Lawyer Lydia Shelly says the Federal Government hasn’t adequately allocated the funding designed to prevent violent extremism. Shelly explained to SBS that investing 98% of the 630 million in law enforcement and security agencies is “a testimony of how misunderstood radicalization is in this country to give less than 2% to community engagement programs”.

Shelly says that if we had strong and resilient communities and families, the radicalization problem would be smaller.


Counter-terrorism researcher at Curtin University Professor Anne Aly agrees that families have a very important role to avoid the radicalization of girls, provided they learn how to set aside taboos and talk to their children.


Professor Aly explains young people aren’t finding the answers from their parents or the religious leaders, or at school. And that’s why Isis can recruit them.  “The only people who are willing to give them the answers are the Islamic State and the recruiters for the Islamic State. So if we are not giving them the answers, that’s where they’re going to get the answers from.”

The British Government says girls who are targeted by ISIS recruiting campaigns are “vulnerable teenagers".


However, Professor Aly thinks that the so called 'Jihadi brides' aren't oppressed and she claims that they join ISIS for the same reasons men do: the promise of a politically and religiously pure Islamic society together with the promise of adventure.


While some of the young militants are attracted by the fighting, others see themselves as having a strong supportive role in the establishment of what they believe is a legitimate Islamic State, explains Professor Aly. The attraction for adventure and the personal connections with somebody who is already in Iraq or Syria, may also influence the youngsters.


Professor Aly said to SBS that those who have had daughters or family members who’ve gone overseas are particularly frightened to speak out about it: “I think there is a lot to do with the fact that in Australia the issue has been securitized, very much stigmatized, and seeing just as an issue of national security and only an issue of criminality. There is also shame around it as well, I think in Europe this issue is seen more as a social issue".


The Australian government says it is implementing programs to target individuals at the community level.


The Attorney-General’s Department said to SBS in a written statement that its $13.4 million new ‘Living Safe Together’ ‘programme works with state governments and communities to intervene early with individuals who are on the path to radicalisation and to tailor de-radicalisation programmes to their particular needs. 


Professor Aly claims government programs are failing to consult the young community. She thinks they are the protagonists who have the answers to address the problem: “old people in the community don’t; the so called community leaders don’t; government certainly doesn’t; academics in institutions that are very traditional and have no community links… they also don't have the answers. Young people have the answers".


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