Sunday, May 26, 2013

Hundreds of European Muslims left for Syria to join jihad

EU says 500 Muslims have joined jihadists in Syria.
(JPost) Western leaders are concerned about the increasing amount of European Muslims who are fighting in Syria for ideological reasons. Since the fall of 2012, intelligence information indicates a rise in European Muslims travelling to Syria in order to join Islamic groups fighting the Assad regime. Hundreds of Muslims from the United Kingdom, Ireland, France and Belgium, among other places, are reported to have left for Syria over the last year. In the Netherlands, the amount has increased from a few dozen a couple of months ago, to at least one hundred in April 2013.

In March 2013, video footage appeared of Dutch-speaking Islamist fighters active in Syria. About a hundred Dutch jihadists are said to have joined radical combat groups such as Jabhat al-Nusra, which they themselves refer to as ‘an Islamic resistance army.’ Their objective in travelling to Syria is to help “their brothers and sisters” in their struggle against the Assad regime. Among them are boys and girls in their twenties, especially but not exclusively from the cities of Delft, the Hague and Rotterdam. So far, at least two Dutchmen have been killed in Syria, the 21-year old Mourad and the 20-year old Soufian.

The jihadists are from various ethnic backgrounds – Moroccan, Turkish, Kurdish or other - but also include converts to Islam. One convert planning to travel to Syria told his story during an interview on Dutch television in March. The 26-year-old Rogier converted to Islam two years ago and quickly radicalized. In a recording that he had prepared by a way of a farewell message to his parents, he declared that he had answered Allah’s call and had left in order to stand by the Muslims who are suppressed in Syria. In the interview, he explains that he “could not sit and watch his sisters in Syria being raped and his brothers being beheaded,” convinced that it is his duty “to defend his brothers and sisters.” Radical youth romanticize the battle in Syria but are likely to be disillusioned once they arrive, often having barely any knowledge of Arabic and lacking combat experience. The parents they leave behind have stated in interviews that they are extremely worried. One Belgian father personally travelled to Syria to find his 18-year-old son, contacting leaders of rebel groups in a desperate attempt to locate his child.