Up to 40 women from Australia have traveled to the Middle East to join or support terror groups, according to Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, cited in local media Thursday.
"More women are either joining their foreign fighter husbands or apparently seeking to find partners, the so-called jihadi brides, or are otherwise providing support for terrorist organizations," Bishop said, according to ABC News.
"Sadly we are seeing a younger cohort seeking to join the conflict in Syria and Iraq and an increasing number of young females.”
Her comments came after Duncan Lewis, director general of the Australian Security Intelligence Organization, told a Senate hearing Tuesday that dozens of young women had either traveled or were considering traveling to Syria or Iraq to become "jihadi brides."
"There are 30 to 40 women that are involved in this cohort that we know of, some of whom have been stopped, some of whom have been successful in getting offshore," he said, according to The Australian newspaper.
Lewis said Australians were believed to have fought for different factions in the Syrian civil war in recent years. Most of those who had since returned to Australia had done so before Daesh, the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, conquered large areas of Syria and Iraq and declared a caliphate.
Meanwhile, Bishop told parliament the rising number of women supporting terrorism “defies logic... given we know the attitude of Daesh towards women."
She told ABC News that “young women shouldn't be led to believe that there's some romantic adventure attached to supporting Daesh and similar terrorist organizations." She added that the group provided online advice on the treatment of sex slaves and encouraged sexual assault on children.
Calling on families to prevent young people from becoming radicalized, she said women made up nearly one-fifth of all foreign fighters.
Referring to the case of Amira Karroum, 22, from the Gold Coast, who traveled to Syria last year to join her husband and was killed a few days later, Bishop said: “Her death was not martyrdom, it was a tragic, senseless loss.”
Australia joined the US-led military alliance against Daesh last October and the government believes at least 70 Australians are fighting with militant groups in the Middle East.
The Senate has passed counter-terrorism legislation banning travel to designated areas. In December, Bishop proclaimed the Syrian city of Raqqa, a Daesh stronghold where Australian fighters are thought to be concentrated, as a prohibited area for nationals without a “legitimate purpose” to be there.
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