Former jihadist's mother: UK risks future terror attacks

By Zack Adesina
BBC Inside Out, London

  • Published
Media caption,

"Ignoring the problem isn't going to make it any better"

The mother of a former jihadist has warned that unless more provisions are put in place to rehabilitate people returning from Syria, the UK risks a future of terror attacks.

The woman, known only as "Linda" and from London, travelled to the Syrian borders last year to bring back her radicalised son.

She said she has received no support to help reintegrate him back into society.

The Home Office said it did not comment on individual cases.

But the 45-year-old mother told Inside Out London: "The government are aware that he went.

"Everyone has been informed and nobody's been forthcoming with any kind of offer of support.

"I went to various places to try and get him help but they've just said, 'you know, there's nothing we can do'."

Image caption,
Linda travelled to the Syrian borders to bring back her son

About 300 British jihadists are believed to have returned from Syria.

The government says it offers returnees places on counter-radicalisation schemes, yet Linda is adamant no support has been offered to her son.

"It is quite worrying that there's all these young men returning from these situations and I think that without the right provisions and right care, we could be risking an incident like what happened in France," she told the programme.

Linda believes her son ended up in Syria after being groomed by fanatics.

"Speaking out might upset him but it's been difficult for him to go through that experience and then rejoin society.

"When he first came back he would have flashbacks as if he was still in the Syrian warzone. His emotions were up and down and he'd sometimes become very angry."

'Not a terrorist'

Linda says she has finally been able to de-radicalise and rehabilitate her son.

"He's coming out of the other side. He's not a terrorist. He doesn't agree with terrorism whatsoever.

"I've spent a lot of time and effort with him to help him to heal but it worries me that there are no provisions for other people and I know from my own experience that this sort of thing can be difficult for parents."

Image caption,
Linda says she has finally been able to de-radicalise and rehabilitate her son

Dr Usama Hasan, from counter-extremism think-tank Quilliam, believes many returning jihadists could still be traumatised or radicalised.

"They will require concerted and consistent support to ensure they can safely rejoin their communities," he says.

The Home Office said it was unable to comment on individual cases but that all "decisions on returnees from Syria or Iraq are taken on a case-by-case basis".

A spokesman added: "Some of these people may have been exposed to traumatic experiences and others may be radicalised or vulnerable to radicalisation.

"For some, prosecution for terrorist offences is the right course of action. For others, it may be that support from, for example, mental health or social services might be more appropriate."

The spokesman said the government had consistently advised against all travel to Syria or Iraq, and that whether an individual was arrested or prosecuted for a terrorism offence would always depend on the facts and circumstances of the case and is an operational decision for the police and Crown Prosecution Service.

The government had also initiated several programmes focussed on de-radicalisation, such as the Channel programme which provides individual support to people who are vulnerable to radicalisation.

Additional reporting by Valerie Vamanrav

BBC Inside Out London is on BBC One in the London region on Monday, 19 January at 19:30 GMT and nationwide on the iPlayer for 28 days thereafter

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