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“


UK PM candidate Hunt: Boris Johnson is a ‘coward’ for avoiding debates on Brexit

Updated 55 min 35 sec ago
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UK PM candidate Hunt: Boris Johnson is a ‘coward’ for avoiding debates on Brexit

  • Jeremy Hunt: It was disrespectful for Boris Johnson to turn down the opportunity for a head-to-head debate
  • Hunt says candidates should explain their Brexit positions

LONDON: Jeremy Hunt, one of the two candidates vying to replace British Prime Minister Theresa May, said on Monday that rival Boris Johnson was a coward for avoiding public head-to-head debates on what to do about Brexit.
“On the question of debates, he is being a coward,” Foreign Secretary Hunt said. “It is cowardice not to appear in head-to-head debates.”
Hunt, 52, said it was disrespectful for Johnson to have turned down the opportunity for a head-to-head debate on Sky television.
“People need to know what you’re going to do and you need to answer those questions,” Hunt said. “I promise Boris Johnson the fight of his life and he’s going to have that and he’s going to lose.”
Johnson, 55, is the favorite to win a vote of 160,000 Conservative Party members who will decide who will be the next prime minister. Betting markets give him a 79 percent implied probability of winning the top job, down from 92 percent last week.
He has cast himself as the only candidate who can deliver Brexit on October 31 — with or without a deal — while fighting off the electoral threats of Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party and socialist Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour.
Early on Friday, police were called to Johnson’s home after neighbors heard a loud altercation between him and his girlfriend. Police said there was no cause for police action.
The Guardian newspaper, which first reported the story, said an unidentified neighbor had heard Johnson’s girlfriend, Carrie Symonds, screaming followed by “slamming and banging.” At one point, Symonds could be heard telling Johnson to “get off me” and “get out of my flat.”
Johnson declined to answer questions about the incident at a hustings event in Birmingham on Saturday.
Hunt said the personal life of Johnson was irrelevant but that the candidates should explain their Brexit positions — and specifically what would a new leader do if lawmakers tried to sink a new government heading toward a no-deal Brexit.
“If parliament takes no-deal off the table before Oct. 31, will Boris call a general election?” Hunt said. “I think a general election would be catastrophic.”
Hunt said he would seek a better deal from the EU to leave on Oct. 31 and would, if absolutely necessary, leave without a deal. If parliament took a no-deal Brexit off the table, he intimated there would have to be delay.
“In that situation, you would have to carry on negotiating,” Hunt said. “I want to leave by Oct. 31 but if parliament stops it the prime minister has to obey the law.”
Johnson repeated on Monday that he would lead the United Kingdom out of the EU on Oct. 31 with or without a deal.
“We are going to come out of the EU on October 31,” he wrote in The Daily Telegraph. “This time we are not going to bottle it.”
Like Hunt, Johnson promised lower taxes if he wins the top job.
When asked the naughtiest thing he had ever done, Hunt said: “When I was backpacking through India, I once had a Bhang Lassi — which is a kind of cannabis lassi — that’s the naughtiest thing I am prepared to confess to on this program.”