//Australian Jihadists in Syria
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Australian Jihadists in Syria

By Dr Mark Rix*

Chilcot’s report [into the UK’s involvement in the Iraq War launched in 2003] resonates hugely today—as the world grapples with the inordinate terror threat of the so-called Islamic State, the report is a reminder that it was the invasion of Iraq that spawned IS.

Paul McGeough, The Sydney Morning Herald, 8 July 2016


This paper will investigate the nature and extent of Australians’ involvement in the wars in Syria (often incorrectly and misleadingly referred to as the Syrian Civil War, a ‘war’ which spills over into Iraq, Libya and Turkey). It will consider the involvement of Australian fighters in the combat ranks of the Islamic State including the numbers participating, their role and activities while there, and the quantum and types of casualties that the Australian contingent has suffered in Syria. It will also briefly examine how these individuals have been recruited to Islamic State ranks focusing in particular on the role of social media in Islamic State’s recruitment campaigns. As part of this analysis, some commentary will be provided on the process of radicalisation as played out in Australia. Radicalisation is the process through which these individuals, particularly young people, become so attracted to Islamic State and its ideology that they are prepared to leave everything and go and fight and die on its behalf (the post-recruitment outcome for female recruits is quite different from that of their male counterparts). The chapter will also briefly consider Australians’ involvement with other groups fighting in Syria, particularly the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), and attempt to provide some explanation of why some Australians have chosen this alternative path. Any investigation of Australian Jihadists in Syria would be incomplete without some consideration of other ways in which Australians have contributed to the wars in Syria especially, but not exclusively, through raising and transferring funds to support Islamic State. After all, and in common with other extremist-totalitarian, proselytising and bellicose ideologies-cum-movements, the potency of ‘jihadism’ is not limited simply to its ability to convince people to risk their lives fighting for the cause in sanguinary wars on actual battlefields in far distant lands. Accordingly, the chapter will consider the virtual and financial dimensions of Australians’ involvement in the wars in Syria and provide an assessment of how significant this contribution has been to Islamic State’s ability to finance itself and sustain the military and other activities it carries out there.


This chapter investigates the involvement of Australians in the wars in Syria (or, what used to be called Syria), focusing on the contribution of those Australians who have travelled to Syria and joined and fought under the banner of the so-called Islamic State. The chapter will look at the numbers of Australians who have joined and fought for Islamic State in Syria, the combat and other roles they have played while there, and the casualties they have suffered when in combat or stationed in or near Syrian battlefields. Of particular interest will be the means by which Australians have been recruited to join Islamic State combat ranks taking part in the Syrian conflicts. An assessment will be made of the effectiveness of social media platforms as an Islamic State recruitment vehicle when compared with other recruiting modes that it has employed. In making this assessment, the chapter will also consider the process of radicalisation through or by which Australians, especially younger Australians, become so attracted to, enamoured of or brainwashed by Islamic State and its ideology that they are prepared to drop everything and travel to Syrian (or, Iraqi) battlefields to take up arms and fight in its ranks facing the high risk of serious injury or death. This will include an analysis of whether radicalisation and recruitment via social media are effectively one and the same process which ‘lands’ virtual recruits at the same time as seamlessly converting at least some of them into actual Jihadis. The chapter will examine the extent to which the process of recruitment and radicalisation plays out differently for men and women and also consider the different outcomes for male and female recruits when they enter territory controlled by ‘the Caliphate’ and arrive at the Syrian battlefields. Noting that some Australians have gone to Syria to fight with the YPG, rather than with the Islamic State, the chapter will look at why several Australians have chosen this sharply divergent path and consider whether similar or contrasting radicalisation and recruitment processes are used by the Islamic State and their Kurdish opponents. Finally, the chapter will investigate the radicalisaton of Australians who rather than being recruited to travel and join Islamic State’s combat ranks have instead, or upon return to Australia, been used to raise and transfer funds to support its combat and related operations in Syria.

Australian Jihadis in Syria: rough numbers and basic demographics

Rough numbers

According to Andrew Zammit, Australian participation in the Syrian conflict began in 2012 when ‘[t]hey first tended to join groups that loosely came under the Free Syrian Army rubric, then many joined al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra (Nusra Front), and in the past two years many have joined IS and have been fighting in both Syria and Iraq.’[1] Zammit cites February 2015 ‘ASIO figures’, more correctly and not exclusively ASIO estimates that had previously been quoted in various official and media outlets, which put the numbers of Australians fighting in the ranks of ‘jihadist groups’ operating in Syria and Iraq at about 90 with roughly 30 of these having returned to Australia and a further 20 being killed or dying from other unstated causes. Three Australian Jihadis have been suicide bombers, some have had cameo appearances in Islamic State or al-Nusra ‘propaganda videos’ and a few Australians have even made it into ‘leadership positions’ of these organisations. Lauren Williams is a little more circumspect than Zammit in providing estimates of the number of foreign fighters, including Australians, who are fighting with Islamic State in Syria or Iraq. Admitting that the ‘exact number’ of foreign fighters who have joined Islamic State remains an unknown, Williams puts the aggregate figure for fighters who are ‘believed’ to have travelled from around the world to the Syrian and Iraqi war zones and joined Islamic State and other ‘jihadist outfits’ like the Nusra Front at about 31,000. Of this total, ‘roughly’ 120 come from Australia, around 1200 are from France and a further 800 or so hail from the UK.[2] Relying on ‘open source estimates’, Tobias Feakin and and Benedict Wilkinson reckon that at a minimum 20,000 people from more than 90 countries have travelled to Iraq and Syria and joined ‘extremist groups’. Feakin and Wilkinson estimate that about 80% of these foreign fighters have joined ISIL (Islamic State) with most originating from ‘Arab nations’ including ‘Tunisia (3,000), Saudi Arabia (2,500), Jordan (1,500) and Morocco (1,500); however, smaller contingents come from nations as far away as France (1,200), Belgium (440), Indonesia (60) and Australia (175).’[3] They caution, however, that all of these ‘are official numbers of those who are known about’ so the actual numbers could be considerably greater or, though they don’t say so, possibly far fewer.

Indeed, it would appear that the number of Australians fighting in Syria, and Iraq, has actually dropped. In a newspaper article published on 6 November 2015, David Wroe and Michaela Whitbourn reported on an announcement from Attorney-General George Brandis ‘that up-to-the-minute intelligence indicated about 110 Australians were fighting with extremist groups, mostly the so-called Islamic State…down from the recent official figure of 120.’ Wroe and Whitbourn point out that ‘[w]hile the reduction is small, it is highly significant because it is the first time the number has dropped since the Islamic State sent shockwaves around the world with its brutal tactics and became a magnet for would-be jihadists from the West.’[4] Fourteen months earlier, about 70 Australians were thought to have been fighting in Syria and Iraq a figure which as seen grew to 120 by the middle of 2015 after which it started to decline. According to the Attorney-General, approximately 41 of these had been killed which was a significant increase on the 15 who had been killed up until September 2014. The figures indicate that, for Australians at least, the death rate is higher than the rate at which new recruits are able to join the ranks of foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq. The drop in the number of Australian foreign fighters is believed to be the result of amongst other things tougher counter-terrorism legislation especially that dealing specifically with foreign fighters. Measures contained in this legislation include cancelling the passports of those believed to be preparing to travel to the battlefields of Syria and Iraq and take up arms with the likes of Islamic State and the Nusra Front or even the YPG and other Kurdish militias. As Wroe and Whitbourn note ‘[p]reviously, the flow of new fighters had been exceeding or keeping pace with the rate at which they were being killed but this is no longer the case, suggesting the exit of such “foreign fighters” from Australia has begun to be choked.’[5] Only time will tell if the supply of Australian foreign fighters will continue to be cut off at the country’s border.

Basic Demographics

In their study of Gen Y jihadists and prevention of radicalisation in Australia, published by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, Anthony Bergin and the many others who also contributed note that their research is based on open-source material and some ‘government reporting’. The report considers the biographical details, trajectories and experiences of 54 Australians whose Jihadist and extremist activities had been ‘widely reported’ across the media with even this relatively small number exhibiting ‘significant diversity of age, ethnic background, education and career experience, mental health issues and other factors.’[6] Of these, an ‘approximate age’ for 47, averaging just over 25, could be estimated at the time of their death or date of publication of the report (June 2015). Thirty-nine had gone to the Middle East, either Syria or Iraq (perhaps even both in some instances) and the age of 32 of these was known with the average age being 24. The death rate for these 39 young recruits was shockingly high, 20 being killed in fighting or suicide bombings 4 of them in Iraq. For the younger recruits, those in their late teens (17-18), Islamic State recruitment propaganda had been particularly effective including encouraging some to travel to Syria or Iraq and become fighters or carry out suicide bomb attacks there. Older recruits, those in their 30s or 40s, sometimes played a more sedentary and ‘passive’, but no less essential organisational-logistics, role with several becoming recruiters of younger volunteers and others facilitators or brokers who helped their younger counterparts with travel and related logistical arrangements. As the report points out, Islamic State understood the pulling power of younger recruits with several making cameo appearances in its propaganda videos and other material.[7

It is interesting to consider the countries of birth and ethnicities of Australian foreign fighters which in both instances are surprisingly diverse. Of the 54 Australians whose details are catalogued in the report, the birthplace with the highest incidence was Australia (23, or 42.59%). It is unremarkable, then, that very nearly all were Australian citizens or had been resident in Australia for some time with most therefore going to school here. The country of birth with the next highest incidence in the sample was Afghanistan (4, 7.41%) perhaps reflecting the low numbers included. Not surprisingly, Middle Eastern countries, such as Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, were pretty well represented in the birthplaces of the Australian foreign fighters. Far more surprising is that the United States is included in the countries of birth of Australian jihadis but then only of one that this author could identify. Reflecting the diversity of country of birth, ethnicity (and, family background) also varies considerably with Lebanese (10, 18.52%), Anglo-Australian (5, 9.26%) Afghani (4, 7.41%) and Somali (4, 7.41%) being the four most well represented ethnicities.[8] As has already been noted, several Australian foreign fighters have had starring roles in Islamic State recruitment videos and also in unofficial propaganda posts on Facebook and Twitter (such as those mentioned in n.8 below featuring Khaled Sharrouf’s son/s).

Australian jihadis

Recruitment and radicalisation

Citing estimates produced by the London-based International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence, Peter Chalk puts the number of Australians who have joined the Islamic State (or, ISIL) and ‘other Sunni militants’ at between 100 and 250 figures he claims are roughly in accordance with ‘approximations’ calculated, guessed or accepted by Australia’s ‘intelligence community’. These figures have a very wide margin of error and the upper limit is higher than in any of the estimates cited above. However, if the intelligence community’s estimates and approximations are to any extent accurate, the country’s ‘per capita rate of foreign fighter recruitment to terrorist groups in the Middle East [is] at least comparable to those of France and the UK and proportionately greater than those of Germany and many other European nations.’[9

A more interesting and important point is that many Australian foreign fighters have been radicalised through associations with three centres of salafist teaching or indoctrination, one each in Sydney (al-Risalah, so far the most heavily involved in the recruitment of foreign fighters to go to Syria or Iraq), Melbourne (al-Furqan) and Brisbane (iQraa). Evidently, each had originally belonged to the national Ahlus Sunnah Wal Jamaa’ah network, which was affiliated with al-Qaeda, but all had since broken away to become independent (of al-Qaeda, at least). Peter Chalk reports that

[u]ntil his death in October 2014, the most prominent Australian ISIL recruit connected to al-Risalah was Mohammad Ali Baryalei. Of Afghan origin and a former nightclub bouncer who had led a hard-partying life of drugs, sex and alcohol, he found redemption in religion and travelled to the Middle East in April 2013 originally taking up arms with Jabhat al-Nusra, before switching sides to ISIL. Drawing on his experience, Barylei effectively used a ‘zero–hero’ message to personally recruit dozens of Australians to join him on the front lines in Syria and Iraq. Many of those who succumbed to this call had first met Baryalei through Street Dawah—a grassroots Muslim proselytising movement active in Sydney that was directly funded by al-Risalah.[10]

In addition to his chequered history and prolific post-redemption recruitment activities Barylei also came to prominence through his use of ‘crowdsourcing’ in attempting to recruit and encourage Islamic State supporters to carry out random terror attacks and executions in Australia.

While many Australian foreign fighters have been recruited and radicalised through direct contact with Islamic State sympathisers and supporters at Mosques and other venues, the case of Barylei indicates that the internet, including social media platforms, have become vehicles of recruitment and radicalisation that are at least as important, widely-used and influential as direct, face-to-face contact.[11] This is hardly surprising when it is considered that in Australia an estimated ‘14 million people (58.8% of the total population) have Facebook accounts, 13.7 million have YouTube accounts (57.6%) and 2.8 million have Twitter accounts (11.8%)’ with ‘58% of the total Australian population us[ing] a social media platform of some kind.’[12] The Australian Government has estimated that Islamic State and its supporters post tens of thousands of tweets on Twitter each day. A large proportion of the 54 jihadists examined in Bergin et al’s study of Gen Y jihadists were active users of social media. Most of these had at least some degree of functional online literacy with 76.9% (about 42) using social media in a manner which demonstrated an awareness of and some sort of engagement with attitudes and beliefs linked to Islamic extremism. The average age of social media users in the sample was a little more than 25, again, a figure that is not terribly surprising because it is a means of communicating and interacting that is popular with younger people who have grown up and become accustomed to using it. The proportion of those in the sample with a Facebook account was 59.3%, a little higher than the Australian average for this platform, and with a Twitter account 27.8% which is more than double the Australian average of 11.4% for the platform. As Bergin et al point out, the Twitter figure ‘indicates the importance of this platform for those who are becoming radicalised or who are involved in extremist activity, and most importantly reflects the way ISIL is disseminating its information.’[13]

The figures for Australian jihadis and their use of social media are consistent with those for foreign fighters and the Islamic State more generally. Not only is ‘every contemporary mode of messaging’ used to attract and recruit fighters, social media apps and file-sharing platforms are also used as powerful weapons to ‘intimidate enemies and promote its claim to have established a caliphate’ across large swathes of Iraq and Syria.[14] The diversity of social media and platforms employed by Islamic State is impressive, Jytte Klausen listing Ask.fm, Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, PalTalk, kik, viper, Justpaste.it and Tumblr among the many apps and platforms used. In addition, TOR (the Onion Router encryption, also known as the ‘anonymity network’) and other encryption software are employed by Islamic State jihadis to avoid detection by location tracking surveillance when they speak with journalists. Klausen does point out, however, that ‘circumstances conspire to make Twitter the most popular application.’[15] The most important of these circumstances is that Twitter is designed to be used with mobile (or, cell) phones making it straightforward and relatively cheap to use added to which it does not require 3G or wi-fi access to enable its effective operation even in remote and ‘unconnected’ locations.

Australian Female recruits: caregivers or jihadis?

Bergin et al cite an address to the Australian Parliament by Foreign Minister Julie Bishop in February 2015 in which she claimed that ‘up to 40 of the 550 or so Western women taking part in or supporting terrorist activities in Syria and Iraq are Australian.’[16] According to the Foreign Minister, women make up about one fifth of Islamic State’s foreign fighters and ‘supporters’ in the Syrian and Iraqi conflicts.[17] Most of Islamic State’s female recruits can be described as ‘caregivers’ with the majority of these marrying fighters when they arrive in Syria or Iraq (some have already married before arriving) accordingly taking up ‘domestic roles’. However, not all female recruits are homemakers and caregivers. Some join the Al-Khansaa brigade which is an all-female militia established in the Caliphate’s ‘capital’ of Raqqah in Syria.[18] Unmarried women, in the 18-25 age group, make up the ranks of the brigade the role of which includes policing dress codes for women dictated by Sharia law (or, at least Islamic State’s interpretation of it) and to prevent prohibited fraternisation between female and male recruits. The brigade may also play an even more sinister role because, as claimed by Foreign Minister Bishop, ‘[i]n an unspeakable act of treachery to woman, the brigade reportedly operates brothels where non-Muslim Iraqi women and girls are held as sex slaves for Daesh [Islamic State] terrorist fighters.’[19]

Australian recruits to Kurdish and other militias: A brief overview

As noted above, three Australians are thought to have fought with either Kurdish militias group YPG (2, one of whom was killed) or the Assyrian militia. However, it may be that all three actually died while fighting with the YPG. The latest to have died in this way was former Australian soldier Jamie Bright who was reported on 30 May 2016 to have been killed fighting with the YPG against the Islamic State in Syria. Bright had been in Syria for 17 months during which time he evidently kept a ‘low profile’ and refrained from using social media (perhaps to avoid detection). However, while in Syria ‘[v]ideos did emerge of him speaking in a local dialect, Kurmanji, as well as a separate video in English purportedly shot shortly after his arrival.’[20] While it is not clear why he appeared in these videos they would have had obvious foreign fighter recruitment potential for the YPG. Appearing in one of the videos, for example, Bright confirmed that ‘[t]he reason I came to Kurdistan is because of the people, their struggle and their fight’ and that he wanted ‘to help them in any way I can.’[21] In February 2014, another Australian, Ashley Johnston, was killed fighting Islamic State and, in late June 2015 Australian man Reece Harding died after stepping on a land mine when fighting for the YPG against Islamic State in Syria.[22] James Oaten reports that ‘[t]ributes [to Harding] have flowed on a Lions of Rojava Facebook page, which has been set up by a group of Kurdish sympathisers that recruit for the Kurdish-Syrian armed forces, the YPG.’[23] In late 2015, it was reported that a fourth Australian man, Ashley Dyball, was on his way home after fighting against Islamic State with the YPG in northern Syria facing the prospect that he could be prosecuted under Australia’s foreign fighter laws. A fifth Australian man, Jamie Williams, had already been charged under the same laws for admitting in 2014 that he intended to travel to Syria and join the YPG.[24]

Australian involvement in the Syrian conflict: Some virtual and financial dimensions

Speaking at the first Southeast Asian Regional Summit to counter terrorism financing held in Sydney in November 2015, Paul Jevtovic Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC, Australia’s anti-money laundering regulator and financial intelligence unit) reported that the Islamic State is using social media for crowdfunding its operations. Australian Justice Minister Michael Keenan told the same summit that ‘about 190 people in Australia were supporting terrorism in the Middle East through financing and recruitment.’[25] Crowdfunding is an Internet-enabled, social networking means of raising money that is increasingly used by businesses, individuals and charities to support legitimate purposes but which is susceptible to misuse and exploitation. In the case of terrorist financing, fundraising appeals can be disseminated through, for example, social networks, closed online forums or placed on ‘thematic websites’ but avoid detection and blocking by using ambiguous, cryptic or ‘coded’ language, making no direct reference to their actual terrorist purposes, invoking charitable, community development and humanitarian causes, or any combination of these. An emerging terrorist financing risk also arises in situations where individuals or groups in reality use crowdfunding to raise money to support terrorism but, for example, hide behind bogus not-for-profit organisations that claim to be seeking donations for apparently legitimate, charitable and humanitarian purposes. The widespread use of these techniques, deceptions, disguises and misleading claims has evidently made the identification and differentiation of genuine and duped donors a significant challenge for anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing agencies like AUSTRAC.[26]

There are a number of channels that are vulnerable to being misused for the covert and fraudulent transfer of funds to support terrorist groups and individuals overseas. One of these channels is the cross border movement of cash by Australians travelling to Syria or Turkey and neighbouring countries. In addition, in its 2014 Terrorism Financing report AUSTRAC speculated that the use of online payment systems for terrorism financing ‘may correspond with the use of social media by terrorists groups and extremists to radicalise, recruit and communicate with sympathisers’.[27] As seen above, there is a risk that charities and other not-for-profit groups can be used both to harvest donations and to send funds offshore to support terrorist groups and activities. There is the related risk that funds from reputable sources or collected for ‘legitimate humanitarian aid’ through unsuspecting donors will be redirected either in Australia, at destination or through conduit countries and transferred for terrorism financing.


Australian jihadis’ involvement in the wars in Syria (and, Iraq) has been at a relatively low level in purely numerical terms but its impact has nevertheless been considerable. One of the reasons for this disproportionate impact is that their involvement has not been limited simply to providing cannon fodder for Islamic State on the battlefields of Syria or Iraq but has extended to undertaking leadership roles and conducting significant propaganda and recruitment activities for it both at home and abroad. Australian jihadis have also been active fund raisers and financiers for Islamic State even when the fundraising and financing have been largely conducted from within Australia and therefore have not made any directly ‘operational’, tactical or logistical contributions to Islamic State’s military campaigns. As with similar fundraising and financial activities carried out elsewhere around the world for Islamic State by sympathisers, on-line recruits and would-be jihadists, the support these provide it should not be lightly dismissed for they have helped enable it to conduct effective military campaigns, invade and seize territory, and build and maintain supporting state-emulating infrastructure. Even as the territory controlled by Islamic State contracts under the combined weight of US coalition-led air strikes, a concerted Syrian government-Russian military offensive especially in and around Aleppo, and advances in Iraq by the country’s army and Shia militia, terrorists attacks and outrages carried out under its name have increased in frequency including in places as far-flung as Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and the US. This all suggests that military confrontation with jihadists in Syria and Iraq, Australian foreign fighters among them, is at best only a small part of the story. What is urgently needed is a better understanding of Islamic State’s radicalisation and recruitment processes and why these have been able to win the hearts and minds of so many young men and women around the world. Only armed with this understanding, and the respect, decency and tolerance that should accompany it, can any campaign to weaken Islamic State and reduce its potency hope to be successful for it would help to starve it of the ‘oxygen’ needed to survive and flourish. This campaign could start with much better and more effective rehabilitation of, and genuine reconciliation with, returned Australian foreign fighters.


[1] Andrew Zammit, ‘Australian foreign fighters: Risks and responses’, Analysis, Lowy Institute for International Policy, April 2015, p. 10 <http://www.lowyinstitute.org/publications/australian-foreign-fighters-risks-and-responses>.

[2] Lauren Williams, ‘Islamic State propaganda and the mainstream media’, Analysis, Lowy Institute for International Policy, February 2016, p 2 <http://www.lowyinstitute.org/publications/islamic-state-propaganda-and-mainstream-media>.

[3] Tobias Feakin and Benedict Wilkinson, ‘The future of jihad: What next for ISIL and al-Qaeda?’, Strategic Insights, Australian Strategic Policy Institute, June 2015 p. 6 <http://www.aspistrategist.org.au/the-future-of-jihad-what-next-for-isil-and-al-qaeda/>.

[4] David Wroe and Michaela Whitbourn, ‘Number of Australian jihadists in Syria and Iraq drops for first time’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 6 November 2015. The most relevant piece of legislation as far as this chapter is concerned is the Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment (Foreign Fighters) Act 2014 which can be found at <https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/C2014A00116>.

[5] David Wroe and Michaela Whitbourn, ‘Number of Australian jihadists drops’.

[6] Anthony Bergin, Michael Clifford, David Connery, Tobias Feakin, Ken Gleiman, Stephanie Huang,

Grace Hutchison, Peter Jennings, David Lang, Amelia Long, Clare Murphy, Simone Roworth, Rosalyn Turner, Samina Yasmeen, Gen Y jihadists: Preventing radicalisation in Australia, Australian Strategic Policy Institute, June 2015, p. 8 <https://www.aspi.org.au/publications/gen-y-jihadists-preventing-radicalisation-in-australia>.

[7] Bergin et al, Gen Y jihadists, p. 9.

[8] Begin et al, Gen Y jihadists, p. 10. See also Marissa Calligeros, ‘Joining jihad: Australians who have gone to fight in Syria and Iraq’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 18 May 2015. Calligeros provides potted biographies of the 36 foreign fighters she lists including photographs of several. Also interesting is Geoff Chambers’  ‘Revealed: Full list of Aussie jihadis fighting in Syria and Iraq’ published in the Australian Murdoch tabloid The Daily Telegraph on 16 April 2015. Like Calligeros’, Chambers’ article includes some biographical information and photos. It has separate lists of Aussie Jihadis and Aussie Dead Cult (a list of Australian foreign fighters who have been killed) and  even includes a list of 5 Aussie kids in Syriawho, as it turns out, all have the same father. This is Khaled Sharrouf who in August 2014 posted on Twitter videos and photos of his son, then seven years old, holding the ‘amputated’ head of a Syrian soldier and also of one of his sons (either the same or another) with a sub-machine gun. The Chambers’ article includes a list of 3 Aussies who fought with either the Kurds (2, one of whom was killed) or the Assyrian (Christian) militia. The two who survived have returned to Australia.

[9] Peter Chalk, ‘Black Flag rising: ISIL in Southeast Asia and Australia, Strategy, Australian Strategic Policy Institute, December 2015, p. 21 <https://www.aspi.org.au/publications/black-flag-rising-isil-in-southeast-asia-and-australia>.

[10] Peter Chalk, ‘Black Flag rising’, p. 21. Khaled Sharrouf was also connected with al-Risalah.

[11] For an overview and explanation of Islamic State recruitment networks and techniques, including use of social media, see, for example, Charlie Winter, ‘Special Report: An Integrated Approach to Islamic State Recruitment’, Australian Strategic Policy Institute, December 2015 https://www.aspi.org.au/publications/an-integrated-approach-to-islamic-state-recruitment.

[12] Bergin et al, Gen Y jihadists, p. 19.

[13] Bergin et al, Gen Y jihadists, p. 19.

[14] Scott Shane and Ben Hubbard, ‘ISIS Displaying a Deft Command of Varied Media’, The New York Times, 30 August 2014.  Also useful are Scott Gates and Sukanya Potter, ‘Social Media, Recruitment, Allegiance and the Islamic State’, Perspectives on Terrorism, vol. 9, no. 4, 2015 <http://www.terrorismanalysts.com/pt/index.php/pot/article/view/446/html>, Brendan J. Koerner, ‘Why IS is winning the Social Media war’, Wired, April 2016  <https://www.wired.com/2016/03/isis-winning-social-media-war-heres-beat/>, Kim Landers, ‘How to cut through Islamic State, Al Qaeda spin on Social Media’, The World Today, Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) News, 12 May 2016 http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-05-12/how-to-cut-through-terrorist-spin-on-social-media/7408002 and Lauren Williams, ‘Islamic State propaganda and the mainstream media’, The Lowy Institute for International Policy, Analysis, April 2016.

[15] Jytte Klausen, ‘Tweeting the Jihad: Social Media Networks of Western Foreign Fighters in Syria and Iraq’, Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, 38:1, p. 1. To Klausen’s already impressive list, Shane and Hubbard add SoundCloud which is an audio platform used to release audio reports. On Islamic State’s use of Twitter specifically see Chistopher S. Stewart and Mark Baremont, ‘Twitter and Islamic State Deadlock on Social Media Battlefield’, The Wall Street Journal, 13 April 2016.

[16] Bergin et al, Gen Y jihadists, p. 16. See also, Julie Bihop, ‘Why young Australian women are becoming radicalised’, 17 March 2015 <http://foreignminister.gov.au/articles/Pages/2015/jb_ar_150317.aspx?w=tb1CaGpkPX%2FlS0K%2Bg9ZKEg%3D%3D>. This is an Op-ed originally published on Mamamia which is the self-proclaimed ‘largest independent women’s website in Australia.’ Also interesting is Joanna Witt, ‘Guardian Live: Why do young women want to join Islamic State?’, theguardian (Australian edition), 27 July 2015 <https://www.theguardian.com/membership/2015/jul/27/guardian-live-why-do-young-women-want-to-join-islamic-state>.

[17] See also, for example, ‘Shadi Jabar: How Australian ISIS [Islamic State] recruiter lured other brides to Syria’, The Australian, 8 May 2016 and Cindy Wockner, ‘Shadi Jabar: The Australian who lured jihadi brides for ISIS’, The [Sydney] Daily Telegraph, 8 May 2016.

[18] For more on the Al-Khanssaa brigade and its role and practices see Women of the Islamic State: A manifesto on women by the Al-Kanssaa brigade (Translation and analysis by Charlie Winter), The Quilliam Foundation, February 2015 http://www.quilliamfoundation.org/free-publications/. In its own words, ‘Quilliam is the world’s first counter-extremism think tank, set up to address the unique challenges of citizenship, identity and belonging in a globalised world.’

[19] Julie Bishop, ‘Why young Australian women are becoming radicalised’.

[20] James Oaten, ‘Jamie Bright: Australian killed fighting Islamic State in Syria a “gentle bloke”, friend says’, ABC News, 30 May 2016 <http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-05-30/australian-jamie-bright-killed-fighting-is-a-‘gentle-bloke’/7459534>.

[21] James Oaten, ‘Jamie Bright: Australian killed fighting Islamic State in Syria.’

[22] James Oaten, ‘Islamic State: Gold Coast man helping Kurdish forces fight against militants killed in Syria, family says, ABC News, 1 July 2015 <http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-07-01/gold-coast-man-fighting-with-kurdish-forces-killed-in-syria/6585392>.

[23] James Oaten, ‘Islamic State: Gold Coast man killed in Syria’.

[24] Dan Oakes, ‘Anti-Islamic State fighter Ashley Dyball to return home to Australia; likely to face police questioning’, ABC News, 6 December 2015 <http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-12-06/australian-anti-islamic-fighter-to-return-home/7005286>.

[25] Susan McDonald, ‘Islamic State using social media as crowdfunding platform  for terrorist activities, expert warns’, ABC News, 17 November 2015 <http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-11-17/is-using-social-media-to-crowdfund-terrorist-activities/6948374>.

[26] Financial Action Task Force (FATF), Emerging Terrorist Financing Risks 2015, p. 34 <http://www.fatf-gafi.org/publications/methodsandtrends/documents/emerging-terrorist-financing-risks.html>. Also see the FATF report on Financing of the Terrorist Organisation Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), February 2015 <http://www.fatf-gafi.org/documents/documents/financing-of-terrorist-organisation-isil.html>.

[27] AUSTRAC, Terrorism financing in Australia 2014, p. 7 <http://www.austrac.gov.au/publications/corporate-publications-and-reports/terrorism-financing-australia-2014>.


*Mark Rix is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Management, Operations and Marketing at the University of Wollongong, Australia where he specialises in teaching Corporate Governance and also teaches Strategic Management. His research is focused on counter-terrorism, human rights and democratic governance especially in Australia but also in other liberal democracies. His research also investigates money laundering and terrorism financing in Australia.

This paper was published in Al-Mesbar Center’s 122 Monthly Book: Muslims in Australia: History and Policies of Multiculturalism

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