‘Jihadi bride’ fears as number of Kiwi women to Iraq, Syria rises, says SIS

December 8, 2015 6:48 am

 Islamic
State group militants hold up their flag as they patrol in a
commandeered Iraqi military vehicle in Fallujah. Photo / Getty Images

An increasing number of women are heading to Iraq and
, SIS director Rebecca Kitteridge told the intelligence and
security committee today at Parliament.
But she did not know whether they were going as “jihadi brides” to fight themselves or to support fighters.
“What
has changed over the last year is that the issue of New Zealand women
travelling to Iraq and Syria wasn’t something we have seen previously or
been aware of previously,” she said.
Asked by Prime Minister
John Key if they were “jihadi brides” she said: “Presumably. It is
difficult to see what they do when they go. We definitely have
intelligence that they went.
Whether they are going to fight or
whether they are going to support other fighters is not clear but it is a
real concern that they would go at all.”
Speaking to reporters later she would not quantify the number but confirmed the number was less than a dozen.

She would not comment on whether had any had returned to New Zealand.
She
said the extent to which the SIS knew about any of them returning “of
course we would maintain an interest in those people” but she said the
SIS did not know about every single person.
“Obviously we would be concerned with whatever they are doing in a war zone of that kind.
“There
would be really significant concern about what they are being exposed
to, the conditions that they are, their ability to get away if they want
to or how heavily radicalized or exposed to acts of barbarism they
might be seeing.
“For a whole range of reasons it is a real concern to us.”
Ms
Kitteridge offered her remarks in her initial presentation then
elaborated on them when Mr Key asked about the type of people that the
SIS watched as a security risk.
“They may have other problems in their life,” she said.
“It’s not your kind of average person who’s going out to work, or happily married or raising their kids.
“I would say there is a pattern of people who seem kind of disengaged in some way with productive life.”
There were a range of age and a range of backgrounds – “quite a diversity of people actually.”
Meanwhile,
Mr Key questioned whether that a proposal he has previously rejected –
attaching the Cortex cyber security programme to the Southern Cross
internet cable linking New Zealand to Australia and the United States –
should be revisited to give wider cyber protection to New Zealand
companies.
He made the suggestion while questioning the acting
director of the Government Communications Security Bureau, Una Jagose,
who gave a detailed speech recently about Cortex as part of a new policy
of openness in the bureau.
Mr Key said he had canned the
original proposal because of the potential anxiety of it being seen as
mass surveillance but he asked if an argument could be made, with enough
public debate for it happen to protect smaller companies.
At
present, the GCSB uses Cortex to mount cyber defence on Government
agencies and strategically important private companies – and only with
their permission.
Ms Jagose said the “hard ground work” by the GCSB needed to be done to be more open about the GCSB’s cyber defence work.
She acknowledged the possible anxiety over “mass surveillance.”
“We
needed to have that maturing of the bureau and of the public to
understand the threat and what we are doing about it. But one of our
great advantages as a country is that we are small and we are surrounded
by water and we have limited inputs for the international internet
traffic to come.
“That is an opportunity for the future, I would
say, that this country should think about very seriously because there
is an opportunity to protect everybody, not just Cortex customers.
“On a future day, we might have that discussion again.”
She
said that in her engagement with boards and executive teams, she was
asked quite often why the GCSB was not doing cyber defence for
everybody.
“I think it is a question that will be asked of Governments in the future.”

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