Matthew Gardiner has taken to Twitter following his return to Australia. Photo: ABCSenior Labor figure leaves to fight against Islamic StateMatthew Gardiner arrested at Darwin airport
Matthew Gardiner stunned his Labor Party colleagues around the country when he secretly disappeared from his Darwin home in January to fight against Islamic State.
Among his thousands of social media posts prior to January, there had never been a single mention of overseas conflicts or the Islamic State terror group.
He seemed more concerned with campaigning for union members, heckling the Northern Territory’s Liberal politicians and posting happy snaps of his three sons, aged between three and 11.
Since returning home earlier this month, the 43-year-old former president of the NT’s Labor party branch has remained silent due to the Australian Federal Police’s investigation into his involvement in overseas conflict.
However, his tweets have offered an insight into his new-found political views and his reasons for going to a war zone to allegedly support Kurdish groups proscribed by the Australian government as terrorist organisations.
He has been tweeting regularly since April, hinting that he travelled to Syria because he felt a moral obligation to help those being killed by Islamic State. Posts suggest he considered himself a hero or a warrior for doing so.
Among a series of motivational quotes he posted was one from Martin Luther King, Jr: pic.twitterm/EPnS2jb0Pu— Matthew Gardiner (@mjgardiner513) April 28, 2015
He references the duty to “stand between the innocent and harm” and “stand between [the] enemy and all that he loves or holds sacred”.
Mr Gardiner, a former soldier who says he served 10 years in the military, had no known links to Kurdistan but befriended a Kurdish woman on Facebook and de-friended most others shortly before he left. Unfortunately I’m still under AFP investigation for suspected terrorist activity for supporting YPG/ YPJ #4corners— Matthew Gardiner (@mjgardiner513) April 27, 2015
He appears to have returned to Australia a changed man, expressing his admiration for the Kurdish militia units, YPG and YPJ, and his frustration that Australians who want to fight with the Kurds are treated like criminals.
He said the Kurds are “fighting for their lives” and those who help them, like Australian ex-soldier Ashley Johnston, are “heroes”.
Another motivational quote he posted on Twitter said: “I’d rather live one day as a lion than a hundred years as a sheep”.
In another, he posted: “Better it is to die in battle with honor, than to live in shame because you did not defend your people”. Australia is the only country in the world that has outlawed fighting with the YPG/ YPJ against Daesh #4corners— Matthew Gardiner (@mjgardiner513) April 27, 2015
Foreign incursion laws prevent Australians from supporting or participating in overseas conflicts, including the Kurds’ battle for autonomy within Syria and Islamic State’s battle in Syria and Iraq to establish a caliphate.
YPG and YPJ are considered part of the Kurdish Workers’ Party, or PKK, which is classified by the Australian government as a terrorist organisation.
His tweets do not say that he fought with the group, only suggesting that he “supported” and “helped” them.
In response to an ABC program on Kurdish fighters, he tweeted: Why is the law written so if an Australian helps the kurds they are treated as criminals? #4corners— Matthew Gardiner (@mjgardiner513) April 27, 2015
He said he would be the “test case” for whether Australians will be prosecuted for fighting back against Islamic State.
Mr Gardiner did not respond to Fairfax Media’s requests for comment.
He was suspended by the Labor Party when he left Australia and the AFP’s investigation is ongoing.