MELBOURNE: At least five young women from Australia have successfully joined the Islamic State and are among over a dozen similar cases from Melbourne most of whom have a “romanticized” view of the dreaded militants and want to become “jihadist brides”, police said on Friday.
The women are said to be between 18 to 20 years of age, and had lied to their families about their intentions before leaving Australia.
Victoria Police assistance commissioner Tracy Linford said that while it was difficult to quantify the exact numbers involved, the state police knew of at least 12 such women who had tried to flee and at least five who had succeeded in joining the terror group.
The others were either turned back or are unaccounted for and also became “jihadist brides” in some cases, police said.
Linford said the numbers are perhaps greater than that and was concerned some of the women had been pushed into sexual servitude in Syria and Iraq.
“We want people to understand that it’s not just a phenomenon of young men wanting to travel over to the conflict zone and join ISIS, there are women that are being lured there as well,” she said.
Linford said most of the women had a “romanticized” view of what life was like in a conflict zone.
“(They think) that they’ll go over there and life will be really good for them, that they’ll be put on a pedestal. The reality is the information that we’re getting back from overseas is that the lifestyle’s not so good at all.” she said.
“We’ve had information come back that some women have actually been pushed into sexual servitude, the living conditions can be very tenuous for a young women over there, they can be on rations and living in squalid and dirty conditions,” she added.
Linford urged family and friends to pay attention to young women, as well as young men, who might be showing changed behavior or disengaging from their normal family and friendship circles, the report said.
“Some of the families have contacted us, some of the families were taken by surprise when their daughters said they’re traveling for some other purpose and then they subsequently find out that they’ve gone to the conflict zone.
In other cases, we’ve seen women who have succeeded in getting overseas and into those zones and have actually reached back through social media and sent messages letting their family and friends know where they are,” she said.
It has been estimated that 30 young men had so far traveled from Victoria to join the ISIS, police said.
A new “Task-force Pax” set up to monitor Victorians who may pose a security risk will work with existing counter-terrorism squads.
Calls to terrorism hotlines have increased ten-fold recently and the newly-formed squad will be charged with assessing that information, the report said.