The Caliphate: Europe’s Runaway Brides

The story of three school girls from East London who fled to Syria to join the Islamic State will be made into a new play at the National Theatre in London. The huge question that plagues many European nations at this moment is why youths are being drawn to such terror groups. Joining their ranks as frontline fighters and Isis brides is no small decision yet still hundreds, if not maybe thousands, have taken the huge leap, many miles across the globe to join a terrorist group.

The types of individuals being lured into the romanticized grip of Isis control are hugely varied, 2015 is a year that gives evidence to this. In March of last year there were reports of a group of young medics who had left the UK to work in hospitals found in Isis strongholds. Among such accounts were those of two Austrian girls fleeing for Syria, one of which one has since been reported as being beaten to death. Another was the story of a French mother and wife who left her home in the suburbs of Paris, accompanied by her 4 year old son to join many other women who had been recruited by ISIS. According to the EU commissioner, it is estimated that between 5,000 to 6,000 individuals have left Europe, 1450 of them being French citizens, to join Isis ranks. Despite these estimates, there is much speculation as to how close these numbers are to the reality of the situation.

Austrian Interior Ministry spokesman, Alexander Marakovits, stated that the appeal of ISIS for young people is a growing problem for the authorities. And indeed it is, Europe has a unique dilemma on its hands, and in effect the civil war that is transpiring halfway across the world has not left its European counterparts entirely unscathed. The issue at hand here is one of security; where the familial abode can no longer provide an assurance of safeguarding its members against the increasing vulnerabilities advancements in technology and easy transmission of information has created. Amongst a family’s fear of losing a child to the terrors of ISIS there are national and international level fears, in that much attention now focuses on the government concerning the mounting possibilities of these newly radicalised ISIS recruits returning to a place once referred to as home and carrying out attacks.

Who exactly can be blamed for the radicalization of these individuals? What is this new phenomenon that is sweeping European nations and catching bright, young individuals in its gust? A clear and concise answer cannot be given to this query, however, there are many factors that contribute to the ongoing successes that such individuals have had in taking the well-worn path across the Syrian-Turkish border.

A French journalist, who now goes under the alias Anna Erelle after recently receiving (Fatwa) death threatss, demonstrated how easy it is to integrate oneself into an assembly that interacts with the idea of joining ISIS ranks. Not only was it easy to become accepted and be a part of this community but her escapade also illustrated how swiftly one can find them self conversing with a wanted terrorist. Abou-Bilel is a French-born fighter of Algerian descent and a high ranking Jihadi. He is allied to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the ISIS leader, and is said to have migrated with him to Syria. The easy access to technology facilitated Bilel’s capabilities to recruit somebody half way across the world to become his future bride.

Far from the glossy on-screen images that spy movies present us with, of high tech gadgets used to hack into nations secret intelligence systems to topple them, ISIS is using the simple everyday technology platforms to infiltrate and enlist the children of unsuspecting parents in their own bedrooms. The fact that regular children are leaving the comforts of their home having had no recognised funding from friends or relatives to suddenly appear in an ISIS controlled area does not contradict this notion. One would query why such a thing is able to transpire so easily and undetected. The carelessness of the Western nations in recent months is echoed far and wide for all to hear and see, as an unstifled flow of youngsters continue to head to a high profile war zone.

The spokesman for the Austrian Interior Minister feels as though the solution is found tackling the issue on a basic level, saying that

‘If we can catch them before they leave we have the chance to work with their parents and other institutions to bring the youngsters out of the sphere of influence that prompted them to act in this way the first place [as]…Once they have left the country, even if they then changed their minds, it is then almost impossible to get them back.’

Turkey says it does everything possible to stop and turn back would-be jihadists – when it can identify them. The country has deported 1,500 European citizens who were trying to cross the border to join Isis and other jihadi groups fighting in Syria, according to Turkey’s ministry for EU affairs.
Google has recently launched campaigns in response to ISIS advertisement by providing contra narrative of anti-radicalization ads in the face of extremist searches. Anthony House, the executive who announced the pilot this month stated that

“We should get the bad stuff down, but it’s also extremely important that people are able to find good information, that when people are feeling isolated, that when they go online, they find a community of hope, not a community of harm”