The ‘Bride of ISIS’ with an Aussie baby
THEY'RE called the "brides of ISIS". The women who married jihadis fighting in the deserts of Syria and Iraq.
Now, one woman who married an Australian who went to fight - and eventually die - for ISIS has claimed she was duped into heading for the frontline. And she has hinted that she might want to bring her children, born as terror raged around them, to Australia.
"I don't want to tell them (about their fathers) because maybe they will be scared and they will say my daddy was in ISIS and this will make their life bad," Islam Mitat told reporter Tara Brown on Sunday's 60 Minutes.
Living in ISIS's de-facto capital city Raqqa in Syria, she said she was constantly in fear: "I was waiting any minute, any second to die."
ISIS is now on the run, their territory vastly reduced in size and Raqqa is no longer in their hands. Some academics have said women like Ms Mitat, and their kids who have been dubbed the "cubs of the caliphate", should be allowed to come to Australia. The argument being not everyone who found themselves behind enemy lines was a terrorist.
Ms Mitat has never been to Australia. Indeed, if her claims are true, it's Britain rather than Australia where she should now be. A physics student, she was born in Morocco and had dreams of a career in fashion.
Like many young people looking for love, she went online to find it. But not Tinder, Ms Mitat logged onto Muslima.com, a place for people of faith to match make. In 2004, she met a British businessman called Ahmed Khalil.
He promised to bring her to Britain. But under the cover of a holiday to Turkey, Ms Mitat found herself on a well-worn extremist highway to Syria.
"I saw too many women with kids. They were in black and I asked them what's happening, where are we going? They tell me to Syria. When they told me Syria I started to cry," she said.
"I went to talk to my husband, I tell him, Halil what is happening? Why did you bring me here? He tells me, Islam, this is my surprise. I marry you to help you from the enemy."
Once in Raqqa, Ms Mitat and her husband were put up in an area full of foreign fighters including notorious Australian doctor turned terrorist Tareq Kamleh who become a poster boy for the horrific regime.
Just a month in, Ms Mitat was given the news every parent dreams of. But her reaction was very different.
"I was thinking now I am pregnant and I will bring my son to this world, it's so dangerous and I was waiting, any minute or any second, to die."
Days later, her husband did die, in battle. A woman being alone was not an option under ISIS. Quickly she found herself married to Australian Faisal Sahib.
There's no doubt the medical student and kickboxer set off from Sydney in 2013 to be by ISIS's side. But Ms Mitat said Sahib seemed out of his depth: "He was so soft. When he saw me cry, he cried too."
"He came to help the Muslims. But he told me when he came he was shocked." Sahib wanted to leave, she said: "Because what they told him was just a lie. He told me his missed his (Australian) life, He missed boxing. He told me 'I wish I didn't come here'".
Ms Mitat said Sahib, who had been injured, spent much of his time helping his new wife raise little Abdullah, her son from her first husband. Then they had their own child named Maria.
When he recovered, and as was demanded, Sahib went back to the frontline. He was killed in a Coalition air strike. Ms Mitat said she was alone once again. And she was terrified this time.
"I wasn't scared of the bombs. I wasn't scared of the planes. I was scared of the people around me. I see them cut the head or shoot. The main thing was, I don't want my kids to grow up in this, because they will teach them how to kill. "
She took the hugely dangerous step to flee the clutches of ISIS: "If they know I'm trying to escape, of course they will kill me"
Ms Mitat said she went to her neighbour and asked for help: "I tell him, I don't want to sleep in the land of ISIS. If we die, we die, if not we will have a new life".
Eventually, Ms Mitat made it across the front line and into territory controlled by the YPG, Kurdish fighters battling ISIS.
When she realised she was safe, it was like "new life, like you were just born," she said.
Four months later she was back in Morocco. She has vowed not to tell Abdullah or Maria about their killer fathers, to spare them the horror.
Ms Mitat told 60 Minutes that while her life is in Morocco for now, one day she might look to bring her kids to Australia, the homeland of Maria's father.
While many may question whether a so-called "bride of ISIS" who lived alongside terrorists, should be allowed into the country, some say it is worth considering.
Counter-terrorism expert Professor Greg Barton from Deakin University told the program he understood why people were apprehensive. Certainly there were some people who had fought with ISIS who were just as radicalised, just as extreme and bloodthirsty.
"There are others for whom it's pretty clear the story checks out. They weren't involved deliberately in any terror group, they were in the wrong place at the wrong time, and they did stupid things. They'll be kept under some sort of surveillance, but they're not a concern." said Prof Barton.
"My dream?" said Ms Mitat. "I want a normal life with my kids. This is what I want now. I just look at my kids. I feel so sorry for them. I'm trying to keep myself strong just for them to show them they don't need their father with them".