'Kiwi Jihadi' Mark Taylor: How other nations have dealt with citizen-turned-terrorists

New Zealand is not the first country to grapple with a citizen-turned-terrorist wanting to return home. 

Mark Taylor, known as the 'Kiwi Jihadi', lived with Islamic State (IS) extremists in Syria for around five years. He recently surrendered to local forces and was jailed in a Kurdish prison. 

Despite Taylor appearing in an IS propaganda video in 2015 encouraging attacks in Australia and New Zealand, he told ABC News life under IS wasn't what he anticipated, and that he wants to return home. 

But the New Zealand Government is reluctant to give Taylor what he wants - an approach other Western governments have taken when their citizens have succumbed to IS propaganda. 

Mark Taylor known as 'Kiwi Jihadi'.
Mark Taylor known as 'Kiwi Jihadi'. Photo credit: File


In December, the Australian Government stripped 27-year-old Melbourne man Neil Prakash of his Australian citizenship, after he was found to be a recruiter for IS.  

The difference between Prakash and Taylor, however, is that Prakash had dual citizenship - it's understood he held Fijian citizenship through his father, whereas Taylor only has New Zealand citizenship. 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told media in Parliament that the Government legally cannot leave Taylor "stateless", whereas other countries have stripped citizenship when a person has citizenship with another country. 

"What we're dealing with [is that] Mark Taylor is only a citizen of New Zealand - he doesn't hold dual citizenship," she said.

"Some of the cases we've seen overseas have been cases where there's either been assumed or known dual citizenship held by individuals, so by those countries cancelling citizenship, that hasn't left someone stateless."

In the case of Prakash, he was captured in Turkey in October 2016 attempting to cross the border from Syria using fake identity papers. He is now held in a maximum-security prison in Turkey, according to reports, over his terrorism-related activities. 

United Kingdom

Another recent high-profile case was the United Kingdom revoking the citizenship of Shamima Begum who, in 2015 at the age of 15, left the UK for Syria where she married an IS member and lived with the group. 

Under international law, it is forbidden that governments make people stateless by revoking their citizenship if they don't have dual citizenship. But the British Government's Home Office said it believed the young woman was eligible for citizenship to another country. 

Her family is said to be considering ways of challenging the British Government's decision to revoke her citizenship. It's understood the Home Office believed she could claim Bangladeshi citizenship because of her mother's Bangladeshi passport. 

But the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh has denied she would be allowed into the country, with The New York Times reporting it said she had been "erroneously identified" as a Bangladeshi national. 

And just days after Shamima Begum pleaded with the British Government to allow her to return home, another IS fighter with British citizenship, known as 'Jihadi Jack', also said he wanted to return home after going to Syria in 2014. 

'Jihadi Jack', whose real name is Jack Letts, spoke to ITV News from the Kurdish prison where the 23-year-old had been held for two years on suspicion of joining the extremist group. 

"I feel British, I am British. If the UK accepted me I would go back to the UK, but I don't think that's going to happen," he said. 

Letts' situation is different to Taylor's once again, as he has dual British and Canadian citizenship thanks to his father. But he told ITV he's not sure that his Canadian passport will still be valid. 

"I don't think I'm going to be given back to Britain, for example, or some Canadian official is going to come and help me because like I said, no one really cares," he said.

From left to right: Shamima Begum, Mark Taylor and Neil Prakash.
From left to right: Shamima Begum, Mark Taylor and Neil Prakash. Photo credit: File, AAP

United States

The United States Government has also taken a tough stance on IS-affiliated people trying to return to the country. The most recent example was US-born Hoda Muthana, who was 20-years-old in 2014 when she fled the US to join IS. 

Like Taylor, Muthana reportedly burnt her passport in a show of protest against her country. Now, after more than four years and after being married to three IS fighters and witnessing executions, she surrendered and said she wanted to return to the US. 

But US President Donald Trump wasn't sympathetic. Late last month he said the United States would not let her return to the country. 

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement: "Ms Hoda Muthana is not a US citizen and will not be admitted into the United States. She does not have any legal basis, no valid US passport, no right to a passport, nor any visa to travel to the United States."

To provide some context, IS has lost most of its territory in Syria, with Al Jazeera reporting US-backed Kurdish forces are pressing ahead to capture the armed group's final patch of territory - which could explain why IS members are wanting to return home. 


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