From blushing Aussie bride to IS widow
A group of Australian women stranded in a Syrian refugee camp say they were duped by their husbands or sons into travelling to the terrorist hot spot and joining Islamic State (IS).
One woman, an Australian mother, said they were "clueless parents" to trust their kids.
Another looks vastly different to her Australian wedding photos. In the pictures, Mariam Dabboussy, smiles broadly, hair down to her shoulders. Now she sits head to toe in black, visibly wizened.
By day, the 28-year-old said she scours for recipes to try and recreate Big Macs and chicken nuggets for her kids. By night the sounds of bombs and gunfire rattles around her head.
"I'm broken, I'm a wreck. I need my Dad," she said.
The widow appeared on Monday's episode of Four Corners. The program went to Syria to meet the wives of IS who swapped suburban Australia for Syria and, eventually, a corner of a squalid camp.
After becoming stranded in the final IS stronghold of Baghouz, they were moved to the notorious al-Hawl camp. It's where almost 20 Australian women and their 40 children reside well as being home to about 70,000 other people.
Four Corners found one Australian man - Muhammad Zahab - was related by marriage or blood to 11 of the Australian women at the camp.
The Australian government has branded those remaining in Syria a "significant security threat" and made it clear it does not want them back.
"These are not innocent women who have taken their children into the theatre of war," said Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton.
In 2011, Mariam married Kaled Zahab. When she became pregnant, they moved into his family home in the western Sydney suburb of Condell Park.
Muhammad, Kaled's brother, also lived there. He was educated, charming and relatives said he exerted a strong influence over the family.
In 2015, Mariam, her husband and their 18-month-old child took an overseas holiday to Lebanon where they were later joined by Kaled's parents.
They travelled to a house near the Syrian border with Turkey and were eventually bundled into a car and taken to a house with the IS flag on it.
Shortly after arriving, Kaled left to be trained as an IS fighter and Mariam was left to take care of the house.
Mariam said she believed Muhammed Zahab conned them into going. She maintains she didn't know they were to cross into Syria.
"(Muhammad) had convinced Kaled that this was the plan, this was the right thing to do," she told Four Corners. "And he had facilitated the way because Kaled wouldn't have known anything."
Three months later, as Mariam was close to giving birth, Kaled was killed in a coalition air strike on his training camp.
"I would like to say it was the hardest time of my life. But everything that happened after it was just more epic," she said.
For the interview, Mariam removed her black face covering, something she is not allowed to do in the camp. It revealed a very different face to the cheery bride, all dressed in white in the wedding snaps.
'WHO WALKS INTO A WAR ZONE?'
Nesrine Zahab was 21 when she went to Lebanon on a family holiday.
From there she travelled to Turkey. She said it was to help deliver food to Syrians and she had no idea she was being smuggled into the country.
"Of course not. Who walks into a war zone? I had a whole family. I had a whole thing going on. I was doing uni," she said.
"It was meant to be a little thing where you do something to make yourself feel better. You help these Syrians, and you come back. You're not meant to go become the Syrian in Syria."
Nesrine, 25, said it only slowly dawned on her she was in IS territory.
"When they asked for my passport, I freaked out. When they took my phone, I had a heart attack.
"Did I cry and scream and chuck a fit like a little girl? I chucked the biggest tantrum. Did it work? No, I'm still here."
BIG MACS AND NUGGETS
She was destined to be married off to an IS fighter, a coupling that was organised by Muhammad.
Nesrine said her arranged marriage was "normal … if you're not running away from bombs".
Muhammad mother, Aminah, is also at the camp.
"We're clueless parents," she told the ABC. "We had a lot of trust in our children. We just let the children rule our lives. I feel very angry."
Mariam was forced to remarry twice after Kaled's death. She and the other women found themselves in ever decreasing IS territory as coalition forces moved closer.
"We would just try to pretend that we're normal. We would try to find Big Mac recipes, try to make chicken nuggets, try to find soy sauce or make Asian food.
"And then the rest of the time was living in fear," she said.
"I can hear bullets. I can still feel the pressure of a bomb. I don't think anyone can ever understand the sound of the Russian barrel bomb."
'LIKE, WHAT AM I DOING HERE?'
In 2017, Nesrine and her husband tried to escape. They were captured. Her husband was sent to an Iraqi prison where he ended up on death row. She found herself back in an IS held areas bringing up a baby alone.
"What are you going to feed him? A banana? Dream on. You're not going to find a banana. You want to give him an avocado? There's no avocados, there's nothing."
Mariam said she and the other woman knew about the laws barring them from returning home.
"I just want to know why we're a danger to Australia? Most of us were tricked by our husbands.
"I'm not a refugee. I have a country. Like, what am I doing here? My son's not a refugee. It doesn't make any sense," she said.
"I'm broken. I've been through so much, I can't anymore. I'm just numb. I'm a wreck."
During the filming, several of the women's family arrived from Australia to see how they lived. Amid the hugs and laughter and tears one of the Australian mum's voices can be heard.
"Next time, get us Vegemite," she said.
Mr Dutton recently announced a plan to strip citizenship from dual nationals found to have engaged in terrorism.
But Australia's spy chiefs have warned the Government's ability to strip terror suspects of citizenship could increase the global threat of terrorism.
The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) warned there could be unintended consequences to the new powers.
"In a globally interconnected world, the location of an individual offshore as a result of citizenship cessation will not eliminate any direct threat they pose to Australian (or other) interests overseas," an ASIO submission to the inquiry said.
"It will not prevent their reach back into Australia to inspire, encourage or direct onshore activities that are prejudicial to security - including onshore attacks.
"In some instances, citizenship cessation will curtail the range of threat mitigation capabilities available to Australian authorities.
"It may also have unintended or unforeseen adverse security outcomes - potentially including reducing one manifestation of the terrorist threat while exacerbating another."