Free Press Journal

‘Social neglect will turn ex-jihadis into walking time bombs’


London: Society, unfortunately, may not have been able to stop many a youth from treading a wrong path, but it is perhaps more unfortunate that those seeking to return to the mainstream are given the cold shoulder.

The mother of a British youth who fought with the Islamic State (IS) jihadis in Syria has precisely this tale to tell, sharing during a televised interview to BBC her despair at being left without support since her son’s return, which The Independent cited Monday.

What is worse, the woman, Linda, who travelled to Turkey to fetch her son James after he became disenchanted with the IS, warned that without vital support from the government, the hundreds of former jihadis, like her son, who have been scarred by their experiences among terrorists, were “walking time bombsa¿.

Revealing herself on camera for the first time, Linda, a 45-year-old single mother from London who converted to Islam along with her son two years ago, said during BBC’s “Inside Out Londona¿ programme, that James has been left traumatised and was occasionally violent because of his experiences in Syria.

However, despite repeated requests, she said that they received no help from the government.

Such a treatment of the scarred youth by the British government endangered the security of the country and made it prone to Paris-style terrorist attacks, according to Linda.

As a teenager James abandoned his studies at Cambridge to become a jihadi in the Afghan civil war.

He suffered bullet wounds while in Syria and Linda claimed that her son was still not able to fully talk about what he witnessed. James could be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, Linda feared.

She said: “It’s been difficult for him to go through that experience and then rejoin society. When he came back he had nightmares and he would sometimes wake up sweating and sort of reliving the traumas and feeling like he was still there.a¿

“He was in a war zone where people were being killed, people were experiencing horrific things. He himself got wounded. I can see that sometimes he is physically traumatisedaa¿ she said, adding, “I feel quite helplessaa¿

“My son is mildly autistic and that made him extra vulnerable. He was quite gullible and went into the situation very quickly without really thinking about what he was doing.

“In a way, I feel guilty and I’ve gone over all the things that I could have done to avoid it from happening. But as a parent, I feel like I’ve been a victim of this, rather someone to blame,a¿ she said.

“There’s no point in us as a society denying the presence of all these people… I feel if these people are just left unattended a they could become a walking time bomb,a¿ Linda said.

Referring to the Paris attacks, she said: “aIt is quite worrying that there’s all these young men returning from these situations and I think that without the right care, we could be risking an incident like what happened in France.a¿

Around 300 jihadis have returned to Britain and the British security agency, MI5 claimed that they posed the biggest threat to national security. Crown Prosecution Service figures, however, showed that only six have been convicted of terrorism.

The government has a number of deradicalisation programmes in place, but not all returning jihadis get opportunities to join them.

Linda said that at times she has felt like a prisoner in her own home.

She insisted that her son posed no danger to the society and warned there could be serious consequences if returning jihadis were not helped.