Friday, 20 September 2019

Sidney R. Jones: Women want to play a bigger role in ISIS

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  • Sydney Jones, an expert on terrorism in Southeast Asia and the Director of the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC). TEMPO/Nurdiansah

    Sydney Jones, an expert on terrorism in Southeast Asia and the Director of the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC). TEMPO/Nurdiansah

    TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - The threat of terrorism in Indonesia seems endless. Last December, the police exposed a terrorist cell at Bekasi, West Java, whose members planned to carry out a suicide bombing in front of the State Palace in Jakarta, during a changing of the presidential guard. Police discovered the plan after they intercepted communication between the terrorists and their top leader, Bahrun Naim. "There is no other person more active than Bahrun Naim in motivating people to go on jihad," said American Sidney Jones, 64, director of the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC).

    She is convinced that Bahrun together with Bahrumsyah are the brains behind a number of terrorist acts in Indonesia this past year. Jones also found the name Abu Walid, a man from Solo, Central Java, whose profile is not publicly known, as one of Indonesia's most dangerous terrorists. Together with Bahrun and Bahrumsyah, Abu Walid was a combatant in Syria. "He is an expert speaker in Arabic, Indonesian and the Mindanao (in southern Philippines) dialect, he is able to communicate with pro-ISIS cells in Mindanao and Indonesia," said Jones.

    She warns that there has been a change in the global pattern of terrorism, including in Indonesia. Terror groups today involve more women and youths in their actions. That also goes for their targets, which has changed from foreigners to members of the police force. "Since the 2010 destruction of training camps in Aceh, 100 terrorists have been killed by the police. This is why the terrorists are now targeting the police as their number one enemy," said Jones. 

    Last week, she met with Tempo reporters Sapto Yunus, Sunudyantoro and Raymundus Rikang at the IPAC office in Bendungan Hilir, central Jakarta. During the hour-long interview, Jones spoke about a range of issues, from a mapping of the terrorist network in Indonesia, to the deradicalization program and radical mass organizations like the Islam Defense Front (FPI).

    How do you see the terrorism map in Indonesia following the discovery of a pressure-cooker bombing plan in Bekasi? 

    Pro-ISIS cells are thriving. It's true there is no longer a central figure like Abu Bakar Baasyir in the past. In fact, Indonesian mujahids (combatants) in Syria owing allegiance to ISIS, are seen as playing a more important role than those over here, among them Bahrumsyah, Bahrum Naim and Abu Walid.

    The profiles of Bahrumsyah and Bahrun Naim are well known, but who is this Abu Walid? 

    Abu Walid alias Faiz was originally 43-year old Mohammad Syaifuddin. His twin brother was killed in Ambon on 2000 and his older brother is a well-known ulama (religious leader) in Solo. He is a former member of the Crisis Management Committee (Kompak) in Ambon, who once studied in Saudia Arabia for two years. He was sentenced for nine years in Mindanao, charged with attempting to smuggle explosive materials. Abu Walid was deported to Indonesia on March 2014 and was immediately married off to Urwah, a widow of a terrorist who died together with Noordin M. Top. They have all gone on the pilgrimage to Syria.

    Why is Abu Walid so important in the terrorism map of Indonesia? 

    He is an expert in Arabic, Indonesian and in the Mindanao dialect, enabling him to be the link among the pro-ISIS cells in Mindanao and Indonesia. He is a good ulama, fighter and linguist. He is the only Indonesian who took part in the beheading of ISIS prisoners in a video publicly aired on June 21, 2016.

    What are Bahrumsyah and Bahrun Naim up to these days?

    It's been a long while since there's been any specific report on Bahrumsyah, but on the other hand there has been no indication of his death either. I'm sure he is still alive. As for Bahrun Naim-the most important figure in terrorism in Indonesia-he stays in touch daily with terrorist cells in Indonesia. He sends his messages through the application Telegram, and sometimes uploads his writing on a blog.

    Someone who is in direct contact with Bahrun Naim is Dian Yulia Novi, a 'suicide bomber-to-be' of the aborted pressure-cooker bombing in Bekasi. How do they communicate?

    No one is more active than Bahrun Naim in continuously sending messages through Telegram and using blogs to continue with the struggle, especially if they are unable to go to Syria. How Bahrun Naim communicated with Dian is very interesting, because it was only the second time an ISIS person in Syria directly controlled women in other countries. The first case happened in France.

    Dian's arrest confirmed the changes in the terrorism pattern, which now involves women.

    Women from Indonesia and neighboring countries have been wanting to play a bigger role in Syria for the past two years. They no longer see themselves as just wives, mothers or even ustadzah (female religious leaders) but also as combatants. They feel greatly influenced by what women in Palestine, Iraq and Chechnya, have been doing.

    Another factor is the change inside ISIS itself, which once banned women from fighting, although in an emergency, they are allowed to be involved in battle, so long as they held the permission of the amir (chief).

    How did Indonesian women become involved in terrorism? 

    There are followers of radicalism who intentionally go to the places which are recruiting centers of migrant domestic workers. They indoctrinate and hope that those migrant workers will become a source of income. Migrant workers in South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Qatar can join the movement through the Telegram application. Gradually they will link up with cells in Syria and Indonesia, including communicating with Afghan women. But this phenomenon is a minority among most of the migrant workers. (*)

    Read the full interview in this week's edition of Tempo English Magazine