Bill Ralston: Isis bride Suhayra Aden was a teen who made a very poor choice. She deserves a second chance in NZ


The argument over the return to New Zealand of 26-year-old Isis bride Suhayra Aden and her two small children from internment in Turkey is a silly one.

Aden left this country when she was six for Australia, which has now stripped her of citizenship, making her welfare our problem. Let us look at the facts.

She left Aussie for the so-called “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant” in 2014 when she was a teenager. For some young Muslims in those years, the Isis jihad, murderous as it was, had a romantic attraction.

This may come as a surprise to some folk, but teenagers often don’t make good calls.

Aden had, apparently, two Swedish Isis fighters as husbands. Both were killed. There was a third child, but it died of pneumonia. For several years, she and her two remaining children were trapped in the chaos of a war zone before crossing the border into Turkey, being arrested and locked up.

It is reported Aden never fought for Isis and now genuinely regrets her links to the terror group. Looking back, I suspect she would concede she made some poor life choices.

One more fact. She has two small children and no hope of finding safety and sanctuary anywhere other than in New Zealand.

On her return here, she will face some hard questioning from police, but chances are the findings of any investigation will match the facts already outlined: a teenager made some bad life choices; she was not a terrorist fighter; she has suffered, as have her kids; there is no reason, as a New Zealand citizen, she cannot be allowed to live in this country.

Aden will, no doubt, have good reason to feel a little paranoid. Our intelligence services will monitor her closely. It is reported she could face a “control order” under the Terrorism Suppression (Control Orders) Act.

She could be stopped by the courts from communicating with specified people or using the internet and be required to report to the police regularly and be subject to electronic monitoring.

Although she is unlikely to be warmly embraced by the non-Islamic community here, there are Muslims who say she will be welcomed and supported by them.

I recall, nearly 20 years ago, another refugee with alleged Algerian terrorist connections seeking sanctuary here. There was a lot of opposition to that, too. His name was Ahmed Zaoui. After years of argument, he and his family eventually received New Zealand citizenship and the allegations against him were largely disproven.

Then there is the Kurdish-Iranian refugee Behrouz Boochani, unhelpfully locked up by the Australians on Manus Island for six years where he wrote the award-winning book No Friend But the Mountains. He is now a research fellow at the University of Canterbury.

If Aden is given enough support and escapes the media spotlight here, I suggest she will simply disappear into the community and, hopefully, finally have a happy life with her kids.

Having been widowed twice, lost a child and lived for so long in war-torn Syria under, we are told, horrible conditions, she will not find achieving that easy.

She and her children may never be allowed back into Australia, but that may be a good thing, as New Zealand is a kinder, more healing country.

If, as we are told, she genuinely regrets hooking up with Isis as a delusional teenager and has the support of good new friends, she can make a go of it. More importantly, so can her two surviving children.

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