[ View the story "Europe’s uneasy homecoming " on Storify] Europe’s uneasy homecoming How should the EU handle foreign fighters returning from Syria and Iraq to their home countries?
The Stream· Thu, Jul 17 2014 17:12:42
More than 12,000 foreign fighters have left their homes to join offensive groups contending in Syria and Iraq, according to a recent
report by The Soufan Group. An estimated 2,500 of those fighters are citizens of Western countries, traveling predominantly from France and the United Kingdom.
France to stop citizens joining Syria waraljazeeraenglish
Of the many groups involved in Syria and Iraq, three have attracted the largest number of fighters: Ahrar al-Sham, Jabhat al-Nusra and The Islamic State, formerly known as The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant or ISIL. The Islamic State group has been at the
of youth outreach, often using Facebook and Twitter to spark interest in their cause.
Their campaign efforts often include using images of European recruits. Here the group uses the hashtag
with images of western soldiers:
RT“@kdvrld: "@tweeetingdoc: #CalamityWillBefallUS
Those are our soldiers:
R U prepared #America?
Al-Hamdulillah I have arrived in the land of Khilafah in Ash-Sham! May Allah honor all Muslims during this blessed time with His obedienceMusa Cerantonio
Many of these young people are not trained and have little to no battle experience. Some say the most vulnerable are youth who feel disillusioned by current situations in Muslim regions:
@AJStream seeing how people are massacred,it is easy to to see how one easily motivated to go help out their supposed broda in islam#mind#idris muhammad ngene
@AJStream when super powers failed to help muslim regions, young n angry european muslims take matters info their own handsSalimawati Sulaiman
Potential fighters are often lured with cleverly-crafted and savvy recruitment videos. One recent video, “There is No Life Without Jihad”, shows several young men from the United Kingdom and Australia who encourage other westerners to join fighters in Syria and Iraq.
ISIL recruitment video shows young British foreign fightersGkwyM2Li85OsEyylAGgkUA
“Al-Ghuraba: The Chosen Few” features an interview with Canadian foreign fighter Andre Poulin. The video, which was recently released by Islamic State recruiters, shows footage of Poulin describing his decision to join the group in Syria before his death during a battle.
ISIL recruitment video features Canadian foreign fighterGkwyM2Li85OsEyylAGgkUA
With an increasing number of foreign fighters, governments have expressed concern about the potential threat of those who are returning to their country of origin.
On July 8, US attorney general Eric Holder
brought attention to concerns
and called on European nations to act more aggressively to challenge radical extremism.
"This is a global crisis in need of a global solution. The Syrian conflict has turned that region into a cradle of violent extremism. But the world cannot simply sit back and let it become a training ground from which our nationals can return and launch attacks. And we will not," Holder said.
European ministers have
a six-point "action-plan" intended to pre-emptively identify potential foreign fighters while concurrently alerting other European nations. The plan aims to make it easier for authorities to track potential combatants.
Some believe countries like the United Kingdom and France have taken an extreme approach to the problem. According to the
Bureau of Investigative Journalism
, Home Secretary
removed British citizenship from 20 people in 2013,
the combined number revoked in the previous two-and-a-half years.
France has also taken steps to prevent young French Muslims from joining armed groups. Proposed legislation will
officials to "void or confiscate" passports of people who pose potential national security threats. Additionally, the "
" to take part in extremist activities will be criminalised under the new law. Nationals that return from Syria may
criminal charges upon their return to France.
that stripping citizenship of returning nationals will leave them "at risk of torture and ill-treatment" in their own countries and increase chances of further radicalisation.
@MarkLotinga Some choices should perhaps lead to loss of certain privileges, including citizenship.Prison will just radicalise more.Filosofizer
@AJStream It will not reduce security risk,it will totaly alienate people and is completly immoral and unethical.Norma Mather
Instead of criminalising their association with armed groups, many feel that returning fighters should be rehabilitated with education and counselling:
@AJStream European countries have always counted on Muslims to remain invisible. Ball is also in hands of Muslim leaders. Engage with them.Lahcen Tazeroualti
@AJStream The best solution is to educate them and put a campaign out to show them the dividends of hatred and beauty of unity.tour2nigeria.com
@AJStream it's a wrong move bcos it'll make them more hostile. I think they should be rehabilitated and giving back their citizenshipstiga™
Non-profit groups like
The Institute for the Study of Radical Movements
focus on rehabilitation rather than criminalisation. ISRM offers
that uses family connections to either prevent young people from going to Syria and Iraq or to convince them to return. Connect Justice focuses on the role of Muslim communities in de-radicalisation efforts.
However, government officials and say that stricter legislative measures are necessary, citing large numbers of journeying fighters in Europe. In the UK, nearly
, most of which are young men, have left their homes in Britain to join wars in both Syria and Iraq. The statistic is even greater in France, with approximately
traveling to Syria.
Some from the Twitter community agree and feel stronger penalties are necessary:
@AJStream they should be arrested, prosecuted and jail. They are a huge threat and that should be on red alert. Extremism at his highest.Engineering/PM
@david_bushby They bring great shame on their families. They've no allegiance to UK so should be stripped of British nationality and jailedSue McDonald
Sooner we strip departing Jihadists of British Citizenship and ban them from EVER returning to UK the better. Cancel their passports.DAVID - ENGLAND
Many online expressed concerns about the situation:
Why jail returning jihadists at taxpayers expense?
Why not deport them back to whence they came back from?Filosofizer
By having supported the insurgency in Syria, the West has exposed its citizens to the danger of jihadists returning from Syria. #SyriaMarcus Papadopoulos
@AJStream they are all potential war criminals and should each be thoroughly reviewed and vetted before returning to normal livesAzad Kurdistan
@AJStream Do U strip right to be a citizen of anywhere 'cause they go to another place to defend people whom no one else is defending.NO!Norma Mather
When asked why they believe youth are leaving to fight in Syria and Iraq, The Stream community shared their thoughts:
@Nuri_ibrahim @AJStream the innocents youths may been indoctrinate by supremacists leader that makes them believed its a holy fight.abubaqr adam
@ajstream it's basically to be amongst fellow Muslims, because Practicing Islam correctly is the no 1 goal for serious, muslimsAbu Khalid✨Al-ameen✨
@AJStream u have to 1st understand what radicalization means. Fighting for just cause(as they believe) does not turn evry1 into a phyco.idris muhammad ngene
@AJStream Quite possibly a minority of the country trying to realise its dreams & ambitions by joining an org. that promises to fulfill.Sheikh Rehmatullah
@AJStream Islam or Nation, which one comes first?? To some Muslims its Islam and that is why they migrate to establish Shariah based State.Farhan
A few from the Stream community provided possible solutions:
@AJStream they should try to block all online jihad site that recruit youth n by providing them jobs. Parents also have a roles to play.abubaqr adam
@AJStream how about starting an intervention in Syria so the youth doesn't need to go in the first placeThomas van Linge
What do you think? How should the EU handle returning foreign fighters? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.