New figures released by UK counter-terror police make the first official counts of British women and girls believed to be in the warzone and contribute to raising concerns amongst families and communities in the UK about extremism.
According to these figures, 43 UK women and girls are believed to have fled to Syria in the past 12 months to join the fighters. Amongst them, there are the three sisters from Bradford; Zohra, Khadiga and Sugra Dawood who fled to Syria in June with their nine children aged between 9 and 15; the fifteen year old Amira Abase and Shamima Begun and their friend Kadiza Sultana, 16, all from East London; and the Luton family of 12 who have been missing since last May. Together with them, at least 700 people from the UK have reported to have joined the jihadist organisation in Syria and Iraq and some of them have died.
Last year, for example, ISIS circulated a video featuring three young Britons. One of them, Reyaad Khan, 21 year-old, is now believed to have been killed by an air strike in Syria. However we cannot assume that this is true, it’s been reported that on a social media account, likely belonging to a British female jihadi and it is said that he has been “lost”.
These girls, women, and likewise Reyaad and many other young people who have joined the caliphate, are drawn in by the ‘one community’ idea of ISIS. The Deputy Assistant Commissioner Helen Ball, highlighted the reality of fact is completely different from those attractive images that ISIS shows them. They are usually vulnerable, isolated and discouraged young individuals who leave their home with the misleading belief of being part of a community with their same beliefs and ideals.
The result is that mothers, families and communities are living in fear of losing their children to ISIS while the organisation continues its recruitment via the internet and through social media.
At JAN Trust we have been researching the issue of extremism and radicalisation for a number of years. We know the way to prevent a vulnerable young people from being radicalised is by engaging with them and listening to their grievance’s, whether it’s foreign policy, isolation, rise of Islamophobia, unemployment, lack of confidence or bullying.
Therefore we have developed our Preventing Extremism workshops where we work with students, teachers, governors and parents to educate them on all forms of extremism. As we are the key lead on online radicalisation in the UK, we use this knowledge to educate participants on the dangers of the internet so that they are able to understand how to prevent themselves, their peers, their children or their students from turning to extremism.
Our workshops are designed to encourage community cohesion rather than isolating communities further.
One student from a London school who recently participated in our workshop said:
“The JAN Trust ladies were really confident, they talked to us about things that we didn’t know about and now I can tell my friends”