At least 43 of the more than 150,000 Indonesian domestic workers in Hong Kong have been lured by ISIS recruiters and radicalized, a report from the Jakarta-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC) said on Wednesday.
The report also identified three female workers in Taiwan and four in Singapore who had taken part in a variety of extremist discussion groups.
As of last month, four Indonesian women from Hong Kong had joined ISIS in Syria, around 16 had returned to Indonesia and mostly married jihadis, and eight had been deported from their host countries or Turkey while trying to cross to Syria, according to the report.
The IPAC investigation said these domestic workers may have been attracted to militant circles by “a search for a sense of community in an unfamiliar environment”.
This search fueled the growth of religious-outreach activities by Indonesian clerics, starting with moderates but gradually including the full ideological spectrum, such as Salafis and jihadis.
“Some of these women were drawn in by jihadi boyfriends they met online,” said IPAC analyst Nava Nuraniyah. “But some joined ISIS as a path to empowerment.”
Indonesian women in these religious groups often see one another as family. When one was drawn into a radical circle, others followed.
The report also mentioned that Indonesian domestic workers were underpaid and exploited in Hong Kong but said such abuse was not a direct factor in radicalization.
Eni Lestari, spokeswoman for the Asian Migrants Coordinating Body, warned that the report would endanger the worker community by fueling discrimination, Apple Daily reported.
Domestic worker Romlah Rosyidah, chairwoman of the Indonesian Migrant Muslim Alliance in Hong Kong, said she also worried about the impact the report would have, adding that her employer had recently asked her if she knew about ISIS.
In March 2015, Hong Kong media reported about ISIS supporters leafleting Indonesian domestic workers in Victoria Park in Causeway Bay.