Last week, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop issued a ban on Australians traveling to Syria’s Raqqa province, which is held by the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL). It is the first time Bishop used the powers invested to her under the terrorism laws. A week later, Attorney General George Brandis announced that the death toll of Australians in Iraq and Syria went up in recent weeks.
“Under the provisions of our foreign fighters legislation, I have today declared al-Raqqa province an area where a listed terrorist organisation is engaging in hostile activity,” she said. “This now makes it an offence under Australian law to enter or remain in the province of al-Raqqa without a legitimate reason. Anyone who enters or remains faces a penalty of up to 10 years’ imprisonment.”
Over 75 passports were cancelled and ten people were refused passports under the new law passed in September. Anyone who breaks the law, “including family visits, journalism or aid work,” could receive a sentence of 10 years in prison. The law allows spies to monitor the Australian internet for anyone who passes out confidential “information … [that] relates to a special operation.” These people can also receive 10 years in prison.
Australia 7 News reported 20 Australians are dead in Iraq and Syria due to fighting with terrorist groups. Brandis said the government believes over 70 Australians are still in Iraq and Syria while 20 returned home.
“You’d hope that mainly young men who are considering this understand that they’re very likely to get killed if they do go over and fight,” said Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Ken Lay. “I think it is a very important part of the message about discouraging young men going over to fight.”
In July, authorities arrested Musa Cerantonio in the Philippines due to Australian officials’ belief he was luring Australians and Westerners to Syria and Iraq. He used social media to recruit people, but it was his specialty that led to his downfall. He was arrested after he tweeted he arrived in “‘al-Sham,’ which is believed to have likely been Syria.”
Islamic State members also use social media to recruit women to procreate with the jihadists. Australian Amira Karroum reached Aussie girls through social media platforms for the jihadists. She was killed in December 2013.
Abdullah Elmir, 17, fled to Syria after his 17th birthday with his friend Feiz, but Feiz’s family found him in Turkey and flew him back to Australia. Elmir managed to travel to Syria where he appeared in a video that threatened Prime Minister Tony Abbott.
“This message I deliver to you, the people of America. I deliver this message to you, the people of Britain, and I deliver this message to you, especially, the people of Australia,” he said. “Bring every nation that you want to come and fight us. It means nothing to us. Whether it’s 50 nations or 50,000 nations, it means nothing to us. Bring your planes. Bring everything you want to us. Because it will not harm us. Why? Because we have Allah, glorious be He. To the leaders, to Obama, to Tony Abbott, I say this: these weapons that we have, these soldiers, we will not stop fighting.”
He added: “We will not put down our weapons until we reach your lands, until we take the head of every tyrant and until the black flag is flying high in every single land, until we put the black flag on top of Buckingham Palace, until we put the black flag on top of the White House. We will not stop and we will keep on fighting. And we will fight you and we will defeat you.”