Three British girls fled their safe London homes on a secret trip to Syria to join Islamic militants. Meantime, “Jihadi John” was finally identified by British security services as Mohammed Emwazi, born in Kuwait and raised in London. Anna Liatsou, independent researcher and author, Martin Bentham, Home Affairs Editor, London Evening Standard, Afrona Da, Syrian political activist have shared their opinion on the issue with Radio Sputnik.
Andrew Korybko: What has gone wrong in London, or we can even say the same for France? Could this be a revenge of the colonialist history?
Anna Liatsou: You asked what made those boys and girls leave London and go to the dirt? I have another question: don’t you think that they’ve left the dirty London to go to another dirt? I mean, what parts of London do they leave? Those people, statistically, come from extremely poor families, they don’t have education, they don’t have a good job, they do not earn enough money to be well off and when they see the agonistic spirit that is now growing in the ME, they think: okay, why don’t we go there, what am I losing? Dust to dust, but, at least, it will be funny.
Sergei Strokan: Socio-economic factor is important, but it is not only restricted to poor living standards. I also feel that it is related to some erosion of certain spiritual values. This is not only about bread and butter, this is about your values.
Anna Liatsou: The European countries, especially the UK and France, definitely had colonies all over the world, especially in the Arab world and Northern Africa. After the collapse of those colonies, they’ve produced a specific legal basis to somehow continue the control over the territories and let the people from those regions come to the European countries and assimilate. The problem is not the fact that they come, the problem is that they do not actually assimilate.
Andrew Korybko: Yes, this is a very-very multi-faceted situation, where you have assimilation and immigration problems. You also have some legal openings that allowed people, that may not have wanted to assimilate and integrate in the first place, to come there. Then, you have the host countries’ issues with not adequately providing for the needs and trying to fulfill and wishes of the newcomers. And then, you have extremist groups on both sides that are fanning the flame. So, we can all dispute over how it got to this point, but we probably will not dispute the fact that it is a major problem that needs to be deal with. But there may be a divergence of methods of dealing with this. What the UK does may be different from what France does, it may be different from what Denmark does after their recent terrorist attacks. So, it kind of shows that there is the EU, but it is not so united in terms of how to deal with these transnational threats.
Anna Liatsou: I absolutely agree with you. Each country in the EU has a number of its own decisions on how to act in this situation. The Greek people, for example, they know how to live with the Muslims and they have lived with them for many-many years, and there actually were no problems.
Andrew Korybko: It seems like there’s been some major radicalization of youth and young people, and it’s infiltrated into the UK. What is your perspective on this? Why are they being radicalized?
Martin Bentham: It is quite difficult to explain, because these girls were, in their particular case, very ordinary, well-adjusted, well-brought up, successful girls at school, their parents had no idea they’ve been radicalized by looking at the social media. That seems to be the big cause of the radicalization not just of these three schoolgirls, but quite a lot of other young people as well. And we've had 50-60 women who’ve gone to Syria, including another 15-year-old, who was a friend of these three girls. They went before Christmas. Another 15-year-old was attempting to go and was actually stopped on the runways. Heathrow police found out that she was going and managed to stop the plane. And quite often, as with the ones who’ve just disappeared, they come from what you’d think were good backgrounds.
Andrew Korybko: Could it be that media reporting on this is inadvertently making it seem attractive? Some of these teens obviously have some serous identity crises, they look on TV and see that these three Jihadi brides, so to speak, are now all of a sudden famous. Maybe it fills some type of void, what do you think about this?
Martin Bentham: Possibly. But I think, in most cases, they are probably not looking at the media very much in the sense that you and I might think of the media. They are looking in awful lot at the social media – the things that are not in the mainstream at all. That appears to be where most of them are getting their information from. Of course, in the conventional media we always have to think about how we represent the things and that there is a danger of glamorizing something, which in reality is absolutely horrendous and barbaric.
Sergei Strokan: Is it still some isolated case, or this is probably the face of a new London?
Martin Bentham: We now have estimations of about 600 people from the UK who’ve travelled out to join the fighting in Syria. There are several thousand European citizens – Belgians, Germans, French and so on. So, it is a western-European phenomenon. As far as London goes, of course, this is not a new phenomenon. We've had people travelling out to the Pakistan-Afghan region, we've had people travelling out to Somalia to train there with Al-Shabaab. In fact, the “Jihadi John”, he went out to Tanzania with the view he was associated with people who’d been engaged with Al-Shabaab in Somalia. So, it’s been going on for quite some time in different conflicts. And the Syria conflict is the newest and, actually, probably, the worst of all of them, in the sense that it is attracting more and more people.
Andrew Korybko: Do you think that people are expecting more “Jihadi Johns” and more “Jihadi brides” to emerge?
Martin Bentham: There have been some safeguarding measures and some legal changes. That’s been a big effort for quite a long time. The police and the intelligence agencies have been well aware of this for a couple of years. They’ve been trying their best to stop people from going. That wasn’t really working very well and they’ve now just introduced some new laws, allowing the seizure of passports, new powers when people try to return (either stop them from coming back or force them to return in a supervised fashion). So, there are measures and I think that our security agencies believe that perhaps the flow of people going there has slowed down, but I don’t think it is going to stop immediately. If people radicalize in their bedrooms, it is not necessarily very easy to know that they are in that way. And in the case of Syria, Turkey is a big tourist destination and it is quite hard to pick out the people who are going there for the wrong reasons.
Andrew Korybko: Everyone is talking about ISIL on the social media, but to what degree do you think the parents in the schools are to blame for this?
Afrona Da: The family and the whole society have an important role in making this generation aware about the truth of what is going on in Syria. But I'm afraid, there is a proxy war to undermine Syria. There is a considerable influence is through the social media and networks.
Andrew Korybko: To what extent do you hold turkey accountable for those three British girls’ legal entry to Syria?
Afrona Da: This is a new proof of the involvement of Turkey in the flow of blood in Syria. Turkey facilitates the international travels for all those who join the jihadists in Syria. It is accessible, affordable and it is also coordinated with the previous groups that travelled here.
Andrew Korybko: How does this play into the larger information war being waged against Syria?
Afrona Da: I'm afraid that the mainstream media is going to view such a story as a pretext for an interference in our country. And ISIS is nothing else than the weapon dropped on our land. It is their own creation to justify the war against us.