‘It turns out that freedom of speech was not allowed in the Islamic State’ – ‘Kiwi Jihadi’ Mark Taylor
Mark Taylor, known as the ‘Kiwi Jihadi’, feels genuinely surprised he wasn’t able to voice his freedom of speech while living under the Islamic State (IS).
Taylor spent around five years with the extremist group in Syria, despite the New Zealand Government warning citizens not to go there. He recently surrendered to local forces and was jailed in a Kurdish prison.
Speaking from prison to The National, a United Arab Emirates newspaper, Taylor opened up about his disappointment with the New Zealand Government, and admitted that life under IS wasn’t what he thought it would be.
“I asked the Government to help me. But then eventually, they just stabbed me in the back,” he told the newspaper.
He reflected on his time living with IS, including in 2015 when he inadvertently revealed the group’s location by geotagging his social media posts, revealing he was in a house in the Syrian town of Al Taqbah.
The blunder earned Taylor the nickname “bumbling jihadi” by the media, and resulted in him spending 50 days in an IS prison.
“I was on holiday. I wanted to voice my freedom of speech,” he told The National when asked about the incriminating social media posts.
“It turns out that freedom of speech was not allowed in the Islamic State.”
The reporter for The National confronted Taylor with some of the atrocities that IS committed, including the murder of American journalist James Foley and Steven Sotloff in 2014 when the group was asserting its power.
They were killed in the months before Taylor joined IS in October 2014, and he said it’s “not really my problem”.
He also admitted that the terror group’s murder and enslavement of thousands of Yazidis was “kinda harsh”, but clarified that he “wasn’t involved directly in that”.
IS has now 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.
Having remained with IS until December, Taylor told The National he was reduced to “scavenging through junk, rubbish tips – basically begging”.
Those who knew Taylor before he joined IS told Newshub he’s vulnerable and should be brought home to get the help he needs. But his relatives have said he’s a “psycho” and that they “don’t want him back”.
After all, Taylor appeared in an IS propaganda video in 2015 encouraging attacks in Australia and New Zealand. When asked about this, he admitted that he called for attacks, but denied it was related to ANZAC Day.
“You have to realise that there are even more hardened people and hardened criminals have been kicked out of Australia due to violent crimes and sent back to New Zealand and they are much more worse than me,” he said.
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 on Monday.
But she also made it clear that the Government will not go out of its way to help the citizen-turned-terrorist.
“New Zealand has made it very clear 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.”
While Taylor would not be stripped of his citizenship, it’s likely he would be prosecuted if he somehow managed to get back to New Zealand, where he could face life in prison on terrorism charges.