Aussie ISIS bride Mariam Raad sentenced after charged with willfully entering Syria

An Australian ISIS bride who was charged after she followed her husband to Syria a decade ago has escaped jail time.

Mariam Raad, 32, travelled to Islamic State-contolled Syria in 2014 to join her husband Muhammad Zahab, who was believed to have been a high-ranking member of ISIS. 

It is believed Zahab, a former maths teacher, was killed in 2018. 

Raad returned to Australia in October 2022 and was arrested three months later following a joint investigation between Australian Federal Police and their NSW counterparts.

She was charged with entering a region controlled by a terrorist organisation, which she pleaded guilty to last month. 

Sporting a pink head scarf and flanked by supporters, Raad appeared in Goulburn Local Court in the NSW Southern Highlands for sentencing on Wednesday, where she was discharged conditionally, ABC News reported.

She received no conviction but must display good behaviour for the next 25 months.

Former ISIS bride, Mariam Raad (pictured outside Goulburn Court on Wednesday) was discharged conditionally and must display good behaviour for the next 25-months

The mother was charged in 2023 for entering a region controlled by a terrorist organisation. Raad (pictured with her deceased husband Muhammad Zahab) after she followed her husband to ISIS-controlled Syria in 2014

The mother was charged in 2023 for entering a region controlled by a terrorist organisation. Raad (pictured with her deceased husband Muhammad Zahab) after she followed her husband to ISIS-controlled Syria in 2014

Raad now lives in Young in the NSW Riverina region in the state’s south.

Her lawyer Rose Khalilizadeh told the court during closing arguments that at the time of the offending, her client was a ‘vulnerable woman in a relationship of coercive control’ who was ‘conditioned to not question her husband’s decision making’.

The court heard that Raad had married her husband when she was 18 and was still at school –  ‘just as she emerged from childhood’.

Ms Khalilizadeh agreed that her client chose to remain in Syria but said that Raad was isolated in a foreign country with young children.

She added that it couldn’t be proven that Raad ‘independently wanted or desired to remain in Syria’.

Crown prosecutor Sam Duggan disputed Raad’s version of how much knowledge the wife had of her husband’s activities.

he told the court that Raad sent text messages to family members while in Syria, saying she would ‘never leave’ and that she ‘cannot leave the land of the caliphate’.

Mr Duggan said the messages, as well as her two attempts to enter Syria, showed that Raad held views favourable to ISIS.

Her lawyer told the court that a psychologist’s report found Raad was ‘likely experiencing … symptoms of complex PTSD’ during the time of her offending, which affected her decision making capabilities.

Ms Khalilizadeh said Raad’s time in a Syrian camp had exposed her to ‘degrading and inhumane conditions’, saying she had been ‘essentially incarcerated for years’ and Mr Duggan did not dispute this.

Raad lives in a family compound (pictured) on the outskirts of Young in NSW's Riverina region

Raad lives in a family compound (pictured) on the outskirts of Young in NSW’s Riverina region

Magistrate Geraldine Beattie accepted ‘the level of control and influence her husband had over her’.

Ms Beattie said Raad was alone in Syria, ‘a female person in a war zone’ which ‘raises the question: if she wanted to leave, could she have left?’.

The magistrate added that the mother had ‘very good prospects of rehabilitation’ and ‘has demonstrated her contrition’.   

Raad was one of four Australian women and 13 children who returned to Sydney from the Syrian Roj camp in October 2022. 

All four women were married to ISIS fighters who either died or are in jail. 

In 2021, Raad spoke to the ABC from the notorious Syrian camp, saying she was forced to travel to Syria and didn’t know anything about her husband’s activities.  

‘I didn’t know my husband was a senior in the Islamic State, and I didn’t even know anything about my husband’s work,’ she said.

Raad was one of four people to date charged with entering a declared area.

Two other cases were still before the courts while the fourth had been withdrawn, an AFP spokesperson said.

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