‘ISIS Brides In Sydney’ Updates: When Mayor Carbone boldly defends the refugee communities and me!
Mr. Carbone: I’m concerned about making sure we look after those that suffered at the hands of ISIS as they are the real victims here.
A personal introduction and interview
by Kinda Assayegh.
When was the last time you woke up alarmed early in the morning hearing a loud sound?
For me, a month ago at the strikes of a thunderstorm triggering unpleasant memories. In panic, I looked outside my window, only to realise that I’m now living in Sydney, not Syria.
During the 8 years of war lived there, I lost count of the times I woke up in terror due to mortars landing on our neighbourhood or simply the house opposite to ours, airstrikes, explosions or that frightening night.
A classic girls’ sleepover at my friend’s place playing cards, singing, dancing and laughing was soon turned into one of the most horrific experiences of my life.
Waking up at 5 am due to a loud explosion heard, I ran into the living room where one of the girls was sleeping to see her covered with glass shrapnel from the shattered windows. Luckily the 4 of us were physically safe and hurried to seek refuge in the bathroom. I checked social media to know what was going on and was shocked to find out that the Islamic State (ISIS) was attempting to infiltrate Damascus the capital and were successful in getting only 400 meters away from us. I can’t forget the screams and cries of the neighbours’ women and children as they were asking Army soldiers who rushed to the building’s stairs to protect us: What would happen to us? 3 hours later, the soldiers entered the kitchen and asked us to put heavy gun machinery through the window. We refused fearing the retaliation we were to receive if the kitchen was used to launch attacks against ISIS.
During the long excruciating 13 hours of being trapped in the small bathroom, my feelings and mental state were indescribable, thinking if it was really the end and if I’d get the chance to see my family again or not. To make things worse, my friends were preparing the worst-case scenario if ISIS did succeed in reaching us and describing the atrocities they did to captive women. Jokingly, one of them said: I guess Kinda is the one to be taken to the ‘Prince of Believers’! In Arabic we say, my blood froze in my veins as I heard words like prince of believers, bondmaid, slaves, etc. Were we living in the 21st century or was I dreaming? I had to face my darkest fears and make peace with my decision. I can’t fell in ISIS hands even if I had to kill myself!
Thank God, we ended up fleeing with the help of my brave cousin and Army soldiers while crawling under the bullets that bleak evening. ISIS tried to shoot anyone walking down the empty street, yet we managed to manoeuvre our way out and the nightmare was over! For now!
This memory along with surviving a previous terrorist attack by ISIS haunted me when the Australian government stated their plans to resettle repatriated ISIS brides into south-western Sydney suburbs. Mayor Frank Carbone of Fairfield City Council joined forces with Liverpool Mayor Ned Mannoun, and Campbelltown Mayor George Greiss to defy the plans and voice the refugee communities’ deepest fears.
Recently, I spoke with Mr. Carbone to find out more on the developments and other concerns he had.
Since the announcement of resettling ISIS brides and children in Western Sydney and your opposing stance of not being a ‘dumping ground’ for those who ‘turned their backs’ on Australia, what are the updates so far? Were you informed of their exact locations, whether in Fairfield or other neighbouring LGAs?
The good news is that I’m unaware of any resettlement in Fairfield which is quite important to maintain our community cohesion. I am aware that one was resettled in Wagga Wagga and was taken to court for her alleged actions to what occurred overseas. After all, a lot of the people that escaped ISIS resettled here and that obviously brings back a lot of bad memories and we didn’t want that to happen. If anyone from ISIS brides did assist ISIS, they should be held accountable for that no matter who they are. A lot of our people are refugees that left their homes, their churches were burnt down, and many had family and friends tortured and killed by ISIS. So, they shouldn’t have to go through the trauma of having those that assisted ISIS live in the same suburbs.
The reason why this happened is that because our community stood and spoke up to show that ISIS brides are not the victims but the refugees. This made the government reassess what they were doing and accept it was the wrong thing to do to resettle them in Western Sydney.
Dr Jones Clark, an Australian criminologist, warned against what’s called the radicalization programs because there is no one fixed solution in this regard. Are you aware of such rehabilitation programs for the ISIS brides?
I’m not aware of that. I’m concerned about making sure that we look after those that suffered at the hands of ISIS as they are the real victims here. if people turn their back on our country and our soldiers that fought against ISIS, they should face the full force of the law. we all need to do the right thing in life and those people who left our country to fight against us and against a lot of the people in Syria. So, if any of them allegedly done anything to hurt those people, I don’t think they should be welcomed back at all or assisted. Many of our soldiers died fighting against ISIS and if it’s found that these people assisted them, they should not be treated as victims.
You said earlier that these brides have not denounced their ISIS actions. Are there any surveillance mechanisms in place so establish whether they still have any present links to ISIS?
I don’t know but what I do know is that when they came back, they wrote a letter about coming back to the country and at no stage did they at that time denounce ISIS. you would have thought that the ISIS brides were not supportive of ISIS, the first thing they would’ve done is tell everyone how grateful they are to be back in this country and also, they should have denounced ISIS and their reaction. that did not happen. so how can we assume that these people were against ISIS when they failed to denounce them. wouldn’t you assume that anyone who suffered from ISIS would denounce ISIS?
In her book entitled ‘Women in ISIS Chamber’, Abeer Abd El-Sattar, an Egyptian journalist describes ISIS brides as ticking bombs to the whole world. She states that regardless of their engagement reasons, these women are terrorists that have no problem in using weapon against those who are believed to be enemies of God’s religion. What’s your view on that?
Any women that left his country, went over there and helped ISIS should not be assisted by our country. Australia should not assist those who turned their backs against their country, fought against their soldiers and committed and assisted crimes against humanity. And that’s why our community and I stood up against it. we should not close our eyes to the actions committed by ISIS, and we should not reward them.
Then how do you describe Australia’s stances when other European countries, like France and other Arab countries with Muslim majorities, like Morocco refused to have ISIS families back for the fear of spreading the ‘fighting doctrine’ in their countries?
They should be persecuted according to our law. Australia unfortunately decided to bring them back. That’s why I was upset because I didn’t think it was right for the government to treat them like the victims when the victims are really the refugees that had to flee their home, lands and lives. The government said that they are the victims, while in fact if ISIS brides helped ISIS, they’re not victims; they’re perpetrators.
Are there any measures in place to protect the children of not passing the ISIS doctrine to? Are there any related initiatives?
I don’t know as it’s the matter for the government. what I stand for is making sure that the victims that are the refugees do not have to be traumatised again because I think that’s wrong. And I thought it was wrong that the ISIS brides be bought back and rewarded by the government and that’s why we took this stance now. The question to be asked is what about the children of the service personnel that lost their lives against ISIS? they’re the ones that we should be looking after. what about the children that lost their mums and dads from all the refugees? they are the innocent ones in my view.
Is there any message to our newly elected Premier Chris Minns on this topic?
Yes. I hope that Mr. Minns understands that the community of Southwest Sydney has many people that fled ISIS and did so not by choice. they lost their homes, their land and a lot of them lost their friends and families. So, I just think that the government needs to recognise these people that fought side by side with us as the real heroes and as the victims. He should not in any way assist anybody that worked against us or anyone that did assist ISIS. Mr. Minns should be quite clearly opposing the resettlement of any ISIS brides that committed crimes against the refugees and our soldiers that have fought overseas for us.
Finally, a recent concern of yours is the Federal government’s intention to increase migration from 150,000 prior to COVID to 900,000 per year over the next two years. What’s the negative repercussions on Western Sydney in your perspective as you and other Western Sydney leaders have declared the region shut?
Sydney has to be shut until the government actually starts thinking about improving the quality of life of people out here. Since 2000, more than 30,000 migrants have come to this country with an average of 150,000 per year. 30% of all those migrants i.e., 1,000,000 have come to western Sydney. This increase from 150,000 to 650,000 at a time that we don’t have enough housing should be considered. There’s a need to understand that migrants from overseas will not be resettling in the eastern suburbs but will be looking for affordable housing in western Sydney. it seems like the bureaucrats, living in a bubble in Canberra, are planning for the budget and not planning to improve the quality of life for people that already live here in Sydney in particular people in western Sydney.
Sydney has always been generous. we’ve always welcome migrants but the question is what is the right balance? we had a state government election, and they cancelled our metros. we haven’t seen any new hospitals being built and it’s been really bad planning here.
At the end, I’m grateful to Mr. Carbone and other mayors that have the best interest of our refugee community at heart!