Three teenage boys have been brought back from Turkey apparently on their way to join ISIS – and they were promptly arrested ‘on suspicion of preparing terrorist acts.’
Three teenage girls who travelled through Turkey to Syria were told (via our media) they were not in any trouble as they hadn’t done anything wrong.
Neither had the boys – they hadn’t got that far.
So what they needed was to be told they were not in trouble, to go home to Mum and Dad. Someone sensible should have explained what it would mean to go into a situation like ISIS and Syria and to say, ‘We understand why you want to go there, but wait and think about it, and we really don’t want you to die, so go home.’
And then they, one of the boys, might say,’ Hang on a minute, you, the British authority, have been saying Assad is brutal, nasty and he needs to be got rid of, but thousands of people have died, and hundreds of thousands have lost their homes, been ‘displaced’, and you have still done not much, so I went to make a difference. I went to stand up for people who are suffering. I know ISIS are not the best of people, but you aren’t either. You are all talk, and then not much action, and now not even any action.’
And then they, one of the boys, says,’ What about that man who went to fight with the Peshmerga. No one said he should have been brought home and arrested. He was fighting Assad but fighting with people you like at the moment. Who knows who you will like next week. After all, Assad is now, not exactly a friend, but not top of the wanted list.’
And the sensible person would say,’ It is all complicated. The world is complicated and foreign affairs are more than complicated. But, there are better ways to change the world than fighting for ISIS. Stay home, and fight for this government, your government to change. Not, I have to say, to be even more Islamic or to adopt Sharia law because we don’t have that here – and if you really, really want that then you need to go live somewhere where that is the deal. But why not stay here and fight for a foreign policy which is not so fickle and not so full of hypocrisy.
And then one of the boys would say,’Why are the girls who left a couple of weeks ago told they are not in trouble if they come home. Why is it said they were groomed online but we are presumed to have sought out radicalisation? I did get stuff online but everyone does, and those girls must have.’
And the sensible person would say,’ Well it is probably because we think they will just be cooking and cleaning and there to be married off for sex, because that is how we think of women in any Muslim society, let alone a ‘radical state’. We think they are victims, but we think you are not. You are going to end up like Jihadi John. And that might be where we really divide because if you do think Jihadi John is a good person, we really do have to divide.’
And then one of the boys would say,’ What about all the stuff you do behind closed doors. Guantanamo Bay, all the renditions and all the rest.’
And he would say,’ How come it is described as a war crime to bulldoze some ancient sites but not a war crime for hundreds of thousands of people to be bombed out of their homes and have their children killed?’
And the sensible person would say,’ Quite right. No one should be beheaded, no one should be spirited away, children in Syria and Palestine should not be killed, ancient sites are important, but so are people, and we should all be much nicer across the world. But we are not, and all I want for you is to take you home and hope, really hope, that you will change the world. You might be surprised to find that there are people here,including middle aged white women living in the countryside who would want you to help change things, and not get killed.