Isaac Davison is a NZ Herald political reporter.

John Key accused of jihadi bride scaremongering

John Key has distanced himself from comments made by SIS director Rebecca Kitteridge about jihadi brides. Photo / Doug Sherring
John Key has distanced himself from comments made by SIS director Rebecca Kitteridge about jihadi brides. Photo / Doug Sherring

Prime Minister John Key has rejected accusations of scaremongering about "jihadi brides" after it was revealed that New Zealand women being monitored by spy agencies had not actually left from New Zealand and were living in Australia.

The Security Intelligence Service (SIS) director Rebecca Kitteridge told a select committee in December that an increasing number of New Zealand women were heading to Iraq and Syria. She said at the time that she did not know whether the women were travelling to the Middle East as "jihadi brides" to fight themselves or to support Isis fighters.

"What has changed over the last year is that the issue of New Zealand women travelling to Iraq and Syria wasn't something we have seen previously or been aware of previously," she said.

Documents released to Radio New Zealand showed that none of the women left for the Middle East from New Zealand and all of them were living in Australia.

Speaking to reporters in Christchurch today, Mr Key distanced himself from the comments, saying that they were made by the spy chief.

He also said it was irrelevant whether the women left from New Zealand or not.

"The fact of where they leave from is irrelevant because they're New Zealanders. If they're New Zealanders ... they may return to New Zealand and so we have to deal with those issues."

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei called for an apology, saying Mr Key had lied by omission and in doing so had "cast a shadow of paranoia over Muslim women in New Zealand".

Mr Key rejected the Greens' accusation that the public had been misled.

"It is just a statement of fact that there are New Zealand women who are jihadi brides."

The minister responsible for the SIS, Chris Finlayson, said the only apology he would be offering the Muslim community would be to apologise on behalf of Ms Turei, "who started all this nonsense".

He told reporters at Parliament that the Green co-leader's "performance has been lamentable".

Asked to elaborate, he said: "I'm not going through it again because I would die of boredom," before adding, "What's the critical issue here in all this? New Zealand citizens.
Where they left from is an irrelevancy."

Asked whether he would meet with the Muslim Council of Women, who wanted to discuss the issue, he said he would "meet anyone, anytime to allay their fears". But that was unlikely to include an apology.

"You don't just go round handing out apologies willy-nilly for no purpose at all," Mr Finlayson said.

- NZ Herald

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