Women, it's no romantic adventure, says Australia
A WORRYING number of Australian women are heading to Iraq and Syria to become so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) "jihadi brides", Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said yesterday, warning against notions of a "romantic adventure".
At least 110 Australians have left to fight alongside militants in the Middle East, and security officials said between 30 and 40 women were among them or were actively supporting the group in Australia.
"Sadly, we are seeing a younger cohort seeking to join the conflict in Syria and Iraq, and an increasing number of young females," Ms Bishop said, responding to the high-profile case this week of three British teenage girls heading to Syria.
"This defies logic. Family and friends need to reach out to young people at risk before it's too late."
She cited the case of 22-year-old Amira Karroum, who left her Sydney home just before Christmas and died in the fighting in Syria.
"Her death was not martyrdom, it was a tragic, senseless loss," said Ms Bishop.
She added that many women heading to conflict zones were either attracted to male foreign terrorist fighters, accompanying their partner, or actually looking for a husband and being told online they could find one in Syria and Iraq.
Ms Bishop warned that they faced a brutal regime which treats women appallingly.
"This is a terrorist organisation that has an appalling track record when it comes to women," she told ABC radio. "They actually have online instructions on how to treat a sex slave. They encourage sexual assault on children who haven't even reached puberty.
"So their attitude towards women is utterly appalling and so young women shouldn't be led to believe that there's some romantic adventure attached to supporting Daesh (ISIS) and similar terrorist organisations."
An estimated 550 women from across Europe have also travelled to join the extremists, and Ms Bishop said Australia was working with Muslim communities to highlight the risks.
Her comments came as an Australian man who travelled to Syria to battle militants was reportedly killed - the first Westerner to die fighting alongside the Kurds.
Australia's Foreign Affairs Department said it was aware of the reports, but its "capacity to confirm reports of deaths in either Syria or Iraq is extremely limited".
"Australians who become involved in overseas conflicts are putting their own lives in mortal danger," it added.