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Australian Isis terrorist's children reunited with grandmother in Syria

Local | 2019-04-16 01:11:00
Australian Isis terrorist's children reunited with grandmother in Syria
   Karen Nettleton finally gets the chance to embrace the orphaned children of Khaled Sharrouf
After more than five years of sleepless nights, Australian grandmother Karen Nettleton has finally had a chance to embrace her orphaned grandchildren – the children of Australia’s most notorious Isis terrorist, Khaled Sharrouf.

The emotionally charged moment when Nettleton was reunited with the children in a Syrian refugee camp was broadcast in an ABC TV Four Corners documentary on Monday night.

Sharrouf’s daughters – Zaynab, 17, who is pregnant, and Hoda, 16 – and son Hamza, eight, are in the Kurdish-controlled­ al-Hawl camp in Syria alongside Zaynab’s two daughters, aged three and two.

“I can not believe I’m hugging you. I’m pretty sure I’m dreaming, I’m scared I’m going to wake up,” Hoda told her grandmother.
The children’s parents, Sharrouf and Tara Nettleton, and two oldest brothers are dead, and now the orphans want to come home to Australia, amid the fall of the Islamic State regime in Iraq and Syria.

The family shot to global infamy in 2014 when Sharrouf published a picture of his then seven-year-old son Abdullah holding a severed head on social media.

But Zaynab plays down their risk to Australian society. “Well I would say we weren’t the ones that chose to come here in the first place. I mean we were brought here by our parents. And now that our parents are gone, we want to live. And for me and my children I want to live a normal life, just like anyone would want to live a normal life,” she told Four Corners.

The mother-of-two is seven-and-a-half months’ pregnant with her third child. “I think that’s my biggest fear now is to give birth here because I’ve heard a lot of stories of people giving birth inside their tent and a lot of them haven’t worked out… Some children have made it, some children have died,” Zaynab said.

Nettleton insists her grandchildren and great-grandchildren are not a threat or a danger. “Just because their last name is Sharrouf, doesn’t mean they are monsters,” Nettleton says.
In the footage, Nettleton is shown doting over her grandchildren and giving them lollies. For years she has unsuccessfully tried to bring the youngsters home.

There are an estimated 70 children born to Australian nationals in the displacement camps, which are holding tens of thousands of wives and children of Isis fighters.


The prime minister, Scott Morrison, has recently softened his stance. He insists he is “not going to put any Australian life at risk to extract people from these conflict zones”, but said the government would “cooperate” with an extraction process.

If the children can get out of Syria and to an Australian embassy, they will likely be given passports to return. The government is working with the International Committee of the Red Cross. France has repatriated five orphaned children of French jihadists from camps in north-east Syria.

For Nettleton the anxious wait to bring the children back to Australia continues. “This is it. I’m leaving Syria. I didn’t think I’d be crossing over without the children, but I am, and I will be waiting for them on the other side. I just hope it doesn’t take too long,” she said.
Aid group Save the Children is working in several camps in north-east Syria and says there are food shortages, malnutrition and limited access to healthcare and education.

Save the Children Australia’s chief executive, Paul Ronalds, said Australian children of foreign fighters are the victims of horrific decisions made by their parents and they must be brought back.

“The shift in rhetoric from the leaders of both major political parties is encouraging, but words alone will not bring these children home,” Ronalds said in statement.

Almost 7,000 children of foreign fighters from 30 different countries are living in camps in the north-east of Syria. Nearly half are under the age of five.

The Guardian
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