Australia won’t risk lives returning Daesh refugees from Syria

Daesh refugees have been fleeing camps, as the Daesh group is on the brink of defeat. (File/AFP)
Updated 14 March 2019
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Australia won’t risk lives returning Daesh refugees from Syria

  • An Australian Daesh group widow earlier asked to bring her children home from a Syrian refugee camp
  • PM Scott Morrison said Australians who take their families to war zones to fight with the Daesh group had to take responsibility for their actions

CANBERRA, Australia: Australia’s prime minister said on Thursday he won’t put officials in danger by retrieving extremists from the Middle East after an Australian Daesh group widow asked to bring her children home from a Syrian refugee camp.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s response came after the Australian Broadcasting Corp. interviewed the woman in one of the refugee camps in northern Syria where she has lived with her toddler son and malnourished 6-month-old daughter since they fled the Syrian village of Baghouz where the Daesh group has been making its last stand.
ABC said the 24-year-old woman refused to confirm her identity and wore a veil during the interview, but it identified her Thursday as Zehra Duman.
The woman said her daughter needs hospital treatment and she wanted to bring her back to Australia.
“Nobody really cares about us here, and I understand the anger that they have toward a lot of us here,” the woman told ABC, referring to the Kurdish authorities’ treatment of tens of thousands of her fellow Daesh supporters in the camps.
“But the kids don’t need to suffer,” she added.
Morrison said Australians who take their families to war zones to fight with the Daesh movement had to take responsibility for their actions.
“The great tragedy of those who went and joined up with terrorists — to support terrorist causes through Daesh and have taken their families into warzones where they’re basically fighting against Australia — is they have placed their children in this horrendous position.” Morrison told reporters.
“I’m not going to put any Australian at risk to try to extract people from those situations,” he added.
Deakin University security expert Greg Barton said the government could no longer use the excuse of risk for failing to repatriate Australian extremists as Australia rightly did when the extremists were in territory controlled by Daesh fighters.
“Care would need to be taken bringing her back, but it’s entirely do-able,” Barton said. “We more than most countries can deal with this.”
Western countries were reluctant to bring their nationals home from the Middle East since the Daesh caliphate collapsed because most countries struggled to gather evidence to prove them guilty of an offense, Barton said.
But Australia got around that burden of evidence in 2014 when a new law made simply being inside IDaesh-held territory in Syria and Iraq a crime punishable by 10 years in prison. The onus is on Australians who visit designated Islamic State-held areas to prove they had reasonable excuses.
No one has yet been prosecuted under the law.
Barton said Morrison wouldn’t bring the family home before elections due in May because the prime minister thought that would be politically unpopular.
Morrison said any Australian citizen who returned from supporting Daesh fighters would “face the full force of Australian law.”
Opposition leader Bill Shorten, whom opinion polls suggest will likely be prime minister after the May elections, said his party would work constructively with the government on repatriating Australian children from Syria without “political point-scoring.”
“We’ll work it through. Do you separate kids from their parents? Who’s going to look after them?” Shorten said to reporters.
Duman said on social media she gave up her middle-class life in the Australian city of Melbourne where she was part of a Turkish-Australian family for the battlefields of Syria in late 2014.
She had followed Daesh soldier Mahmoud Abdullatif who had left Melbourne months earlier for the Raqqa, the Daesh movement’s center in Syria.
The couple announced their wedding online in December 2014, with a photograph of her dowry that included an assault rifle.
Duman, who began calling herself Zehra Abdullatif or Umm Abdullatif, said her 23-year-old husband died five weeks after their wedding.
The former private school student became an avid online recruiter for the movement and urged other women to join her.
When asked on Twitter in early 2015 what she missed about Australia, her reply was simple and numeric: “0“


Supporters say Manning in ‘solitary confinement’: WikiLeaks probe

In this file photo taken on May 24, 2018, former US soldier Chelsea Manning speaks during the C2 conference in Montreal, Canada. (AFP)
Updated 25 min 6 sec ago
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Supporters say Manning in ‘solitary confinement’: WikiLeaks probe

  • The Chelsea Resists group said confinement was having a toll on her mental health, evoking her experience when in 2013, as then-Army Private Bradley Manning, she was sentenced to 35 years in prison

WASHINGTON: Chelsea Manning, the anti-secrecy campaigner who was jailed for refusing to testify to a grand jury investigating WikiLeaks, has been held in solitary confinement for over two weeks, supporters said Saturday.
Since being sent to a detention center in Alexandria, Virginia earlier this month, “Chelsea has been placed in administrative segregation... a term designed to sound less cruel than ‘solitary confinement,’” the Chelsea Resists group said.
“However, Chelsea has been kept in her cell for 22 hours a day.
“Chelsea can’t be out of her cell while any other prisoners are out, so she cannot talk to other people, or visit the law library, and has no access to books or reading material. She has not been outside for 16 days,” they added.
“Keeping her under these conditions for over 15 days amounts to torture, possibly in an attempt to coerce her into compliance with the Grand Jury.”
Manning, who was convicted in 2013 of leaking more than 700,000 classified US documents related to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to WikiLeaks, was ruled in contempt of court on March 8 after rejecting a court demand that she testify in the WikiLeaks probe.
The transgender woman, 31, cited “ethical” objections to the grand jury system.
“I will not participate in a secret process that I morally object to, particularly one that has been historically used to entrap and persecute activists for protected political speech,” she said at the time.
The Chelsea Resists group said confinement was having a toll on her mental health, evoking her experience when in 2013, as then-Army Private Bradley Manning, she was sentenced to 35 years in prison.
At that time she spent time in solitary and attempted suicide twice, before her sentence was commuted in 2017 by president Barack Obama.
She has argued that since the grand jury investigation is officially secret, it is not clear what they want to learn from her about WikiLeaks’ activities in 2010 that she hasn’t recounted in her earlier trial.
In a previously secret court filing unsealed this week, Manning’s lawyers said she “reasonably believes that the current administration is unhappy with her release [in 2016], and seeks to punish her further by using any means at their disposal to incarcerate her.”