Former Harristown High student Oliver Bridgeman who is now in Syria.
Former Harristown High student Oliver Bridgeman who is now in Syria. Contributed

OPINION: Bring jihadists home... but only if they’re sorry

IS IT just me or does everyone think global jihad is not all it's cracked up to be?

This week we heard at least 12 Australian citizens suspected of fighting for ISIS in Syria have had enough and want to come home. I'm not surprised.

The Abbott government is adamant Australians suspected of fighting in Syria will be arrested, prosecuted and jailed.

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At least three of the 12 men who have contacted the Federal Government have already engaged lawyers to discuss what penalties or jail terms are likely.

Personally, I think Australia should encourage foreign fighters to come home. I'm not talking about indemnity, but I think we should be open to negotiation around the renunciation of ISIS and how former foreign fighters could assist with de-radicalisation programs, in return for leniency.

There is so much we don't understand about what attracts young Australians to war on different shores.

Parents can wring their hands and governments can revoke passports, but only the jihadist know what led them to believe in something as radical and unpalatable as ISIS.

The thing we do know is that most young Australians who have fled to Syria were radicalised via the internet and that once lured by the terror group, they were impossible to turn back.

A study by the global intelligence agency Soufan Group calculates that in June 2014 there were more than 12,000 fighters from 81 different countries in Syria and Iraq. This is not an exclusively Western problem.

Saudi Arabia saw the need for a de-radicalisation program in 2004. It's now seen as the world benchmark.

 

Should jihadists be allowed to come back to Australia?

This poll ended on 24 July 2015.

Current Results

Yes, everyone deserves a second chance

18%

No, they committed themselves to the cause and shouldn't be accepted back

40%

Each person should be looked at individually

41%

This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.

The best teachers, they know, are former participants. Only people who have been attracted to terrorism truly understand the compulsion. They also know how the groups recruit and have the credibility of someone who has been behind enemy lines.

The 12 Australian men who now want to come home are the only people who can expose the true nature of Islamic State and its evil leadership. They have no doubt witnessed brutality and hypocrisy first-hand and their stories will be far more powerful than anyone from Canberra.

Some of the 12 are little more than naive boys. If the stories around 18-year-old Oliver Bridgeman from Toowoomba are true, he has barely lasted a month. Should we really tear up his passport? The young doctor Tareq Kamleh is working as a pediatrician in Raqqa, should he never be allowed back to Australia?

Repentant fighters need a safe way out. They should be investigated and tried, but if they are committed to a non-violent future, we should use them any way we can to keep others at home.



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