A New Zealander who is being detained in a Kurdish prison after joining and then fleeing Islamic State has to find a way home on his own, says Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Mark Taylor, nicknamed the “Kiwi Jihadi”, has been in Syria with ISIS since 2014. The US Department of State alleged that he “used social media, including appearing in a 2015 ISIS propaganda video, to encourage terrorist attacks in Australia and New Zealand” and he was placed on a United States terrorist watchlist.
ABC reported that the former New Zealand soldier had fled the terrorist group in December because the living conditions were unbearable. “There was no food, no money, basic services were pretty much collapsed,” he said. “I was in a pickle myself and had to make a final decision, which was to leave.”
Ardern and Justice Minister Andrew Little said they had warned New Zealanders not to travel to Syria because the government could not help them return. "New Zealand has made it very clear from the outset that New Zealanders should not travel to Syria. Further, it is clear that it is unlawful to join and fight with a terrorist organisation as Mark Taylor has done."
"As with any New Zealand citizen overseas, if they wish to return to New Zealand then a journey specific emergency travel document can be issued under Section 23 of the Passports Act 1992,” she said.
But because there is no New Zealand diplomatic representation in Syria, the government’s ability to assist citizens to get out is “severely limited”. Ardern said Taylor would probably have to travel to Turkey to get the documents he needed to return home.
Ardern said that if Taylor does return to New Zealand, there have been plans in place for some time that involve police and other agencies. "I am confident that we have the means to keep New Zealanders safe,” she said. "Bringing terrorists to justice is something the government takes extremely seriously."