Former Australian citizen and the first ‘ISIS Bride’ from Australia, Zehra Duman, has been living in Turkey with two children. In November 2020, she was released by the Turkish court. Notably, in September 2020, she was sentenced to almost seven years in a Turkish jail for being a member of a terrorist organization. Duman held dual citizenship of Australia and Turkey till mid-2019. She was stripped of her Australian citizenship over connections with Islamic State (IS) terrorist group.
Duman and her children were among 70 Australian women and children taken to the al-Hawl detention camp in northeast Syria after the fall of IS in 2019. During an interview, she said she wanted to return to Australia. However, four months later, in a letter to Duman, she was informed by the Australian government that her Australian citizenship had been revoked.
The letter stated, “The Minister for Home Affairs has become aware of conduct because of which you, as a national or citizen of a country other than Australia, namely Turkey, have ceased to be an Australian citizen … Specifically, the Minister has become aware that you were in the service of Islamic State outside Australia.”
Later, Duman fled al-Hawl and entered Turkey with the help of smugglers. However, she was arrested while doing so. In September last year, a court in Sanliurfa, a southern Turkish city, sentenced her to six years and ten months in jail for being associated with ISIS. Two months later, she appeared before a court in Gaziantep, another southern Turkish City. The court released her as she was the only person able to take care of her children, Layla and Jarrah. Duman is enjoying her life in an unknown location in Turkey.
Duman’s statements in Turkish courts
ABC got access to the documents that allegedly had the statements made by Duman during the hearing in Turkish courts. According to ABC, it is unclear if Turkish authorities did anything to verify the statements. According to her statement, she was forced to remarry twice, and all her husbands were killed during the Syrian war. She alleged that ISIS jailed her in 2017 when she tried to leave the group. Her first child was born from the second husband and the second child from the third husband while she was in Syria.
Duman blamed her ‘problematic’ childhood
During the hearing, Duman blamed her childhood for her leaning towards Islam and ISIS. Her parents’ divorce, unhealthy relationships, breakups and depression during her teens allegedly pushed her towards Islam. During her late teens in 2014, Mahmoud Abdullatif, a party boy turned fundamentalist Islamist reached out to her. She said, “Mahmoud found me and got in touch with me through social media. He knew that I’m naïve and I had a tough life. He told me, ‘I’m going to give you a beautiful life.’ I believed in him.” At the age of 19, she travelled to Turkey and then Syria in 2014.
One Abu Bakr smuggled her into ISIS territory and placed her in one of the IS houses where unmarried women were kept. A month later, Abdullatif took her to Raqqa, and they got married. Where she lived, several Australian ISIS recruits, including Sydney-born ISIS terrorist Khaled Sharrouf, were also living. In January 2015, Abdullatif was killed in an airstrike.
After Iddah, a waiting period observed by Muslim women after a divorce or the death of their husband, she married Nedol. During that period, she travelled to Iraq. He was killed in an airstrike in 2016. She was pregnant at that time with Jarrah. She returned to Syria and gave birth to her first child. After the birth, she was left on the street. She tried to flee Syria but was recaptured by ISIS with the help of Turkish authorities.
When she was spending time in jail, an Arab-Australian man identified by her as Baran met her and offered to marry her. She got pregnant with her second child after she married, and in 2018, Baran was killed in the war. After ISIS’s fall, she ended up in the al-Hawl detention camp in Syria.
Duman was heavily radicalized
Notably, during the time she drifted towards ISIS, there were several incidents in her life that give a glimpse of her radicalization. She was best friends with Tara Nettleton, the wife of Khaled Sharrouf, another Australian who had joined ISIS. Duman was ‘famous’ for recruiting naïve minds for the terrorist organization.
Duman had posted inflammatory content on her social media profiles, including tweets mocking western authorities, pledging to kill non-Muslims and photos of herself with guns. When she got married to Abdullatif, her husband had written, “I got married today. Alhumdolileh (praise be to god) I made hijra (pilgrimage) and got married here man, Insha Allah I receive a beautiful death as well.”
Soon after the wedding, she started to post notorious posts on social media platforms. In one tweet, she wrote, “US + Australia, how does it feel that all 5 of us were born n raised in your lands, & nowhere thirsty for ur blood?” In another tweet, she mocked security agencies and wrote, “catch me if you can”, and called for her followers to poison Kafirs (non-Muslims). She wrote, “Stab them and poison them. Poison your teachers, go to haram restaurants and poison the food in large quantities.”
In 2019, after the fall of ISIS, she said in an interview that she wanted to go back to Australia. She said, “Both of my kids are sick. [My daughter is] very malnourished, she’s … very skinny. I have no money, I’m not allowed to have money. They don’t give us food here and they don’t let us contact our families. I understand the anger that they have towards a lot of us here, but the kids don’t need to suffer. My kids have a right at least to be treated like normal kids.”
Duman was one of over a dozen Australians who were stripped of their citizenships by the Australian government for having connections to a terrorist organization. Notably, the Australian government revoked the citizrnship of only those terrorists who had dual citizenship. Those who only have Australian citizenship were left out.