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Thread: Foreign Fighters: preventative action (UK mainly)

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    Default Foreign Fighters: preventative action (UK mainly)

    Moderators Note: Title changed today from 'May 1940 Dad's Army, April 2014 Mum's Army' to 'Foreign Fighters: preventative action (UK mainly)' (ends).


    There is a long running thread on UK CT, but today CT took a new twist. Which is neatly labelled 'safeguarding'.

    Historical passage to explain the title. Following our defeat in France in May 1940 a volunteer local defence force was created, popularly known after a BBC comedy series as 'Dad's Army'.

    One headline 'Syria crisis: stop your sons joining war, urges Met police' from The Guardian:http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2...olitan-police?

    On the BBC the senior UK CT police officer was interviewed, along with a critic, Keith Vaz MP (6 mins):http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-27137743

    From one report her comments:
    We want to ensure that people, particularly women, who are concerned about their loved ones are given enough information about what they can do to prevent this from happening. We want to increase their confidence in the police and partners to encourage them to come forward so that we can intervene and help. This is not about criminalising people. It is about preventing tragedies.
    Keith Vaz, whose Select Committee is looking at CT:
    There is no evidence that families know. Young people are just leaving without telling families and their families are the last to know...The evidence we received is that the police don't know how to stop this.
    A view from the "grass roots" by a respected youth worker in Birmingham:
    Atif Iqbal, of the United Birmingham campaign, who travelled to Syria to deliver food, said clarity was needed about how people could provide humanitarian help while staying within the law. "What is the legal framework – that is what we need some clarity on. It's very ambiguous, the goalposts keep changing,"...
    The Daily Telegraph has a similar story:http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/ukne...jihadists.html

    The Quilliam Foundation is supportive, but calls for more efforts:http://www.quilliamfoundation.org/pr...ight-in-syria/

    How will Muslim mothers react? That is to the say the least very unclear. The media often rely on very little known women to speak, so the BBC has one who is critical:
    ..there was so much mistrust of the police in her community that many people would be too afraid to report friends and family to authorities.
    Link to short video clip:http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-27137889
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 08-09-2014 at 02:53 PM. Reason: Add note
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    Default Part 2

    Some official context:
    The number of people travelling to Syria from the UK is judged to be in the low hundreds and available information shows that the number of Syria-related arrests increased substantially in 2014. The figure for the whole of 2013 was approximately 25 yet for the first three months of 2014 alone it is approximately 40.

    Since January five people from Birmingham have been charged with Syrian-related offences and are currently awaiting trial.
    Link:http://www.west-midlands.police.uk/l...ws.aspx?id=729

    The main, eight page publication:http://www.west-midlands.police.uk/d...t_04.04.14.pdf
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    Default Part 3

    A BBC reporter, Catrin Nye, who specialises in reporting on the UK Asian scene, tweeted today:
    Just spoke to Brit Muslim currently fighting in Syria, he says family didn't know he was going, not even his mother could have stopped him.
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    Default Part 4

    A "lurker" has responded, based on their "hands on" experience in IW and knowledge of Syria:
    Opportunities:

    - Syria is not a Western occupation, and it is difficult to paint it as such. The most convincing way of directing ire towards the west in relation to the situation in Syria is to accuse Washington, London etc of "doing nothing"
    - Syrians dont like ISIS. This means potential volunteers, find it difficult to avoid the reality that the Muslim v. West narrative is overly simplistic
    - The sectarian nature of the Syrian war is unavoidable, so it is difficult for extremists to maintain traction for the "Muslims vs West" narrative. or, at least harder than it is when it comes to Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq etc


    Challenges:


    - Scant knowledge amongst volunteers of Syria's political, social or cultural context. ie. it is easier to paint the conflict as whatever you want - for a period of time, at least
    - The rise of "doomsday prophecies" around the conflict. (ie that its part of a long foretold religious prediction about the coming of the mehdi/jesus) and heralds the end of the world. Both the Iranians and AQ are using this according to their (slightly) differing religious traditions.
    - Fighting in Syria can be seen by volunteers as a duty that does not contradict their loyalty to the UK. This means that UK government efforts to stop them then become seen as a sinister plot to stop them helping Syrians. (Such conspiracies already exist amongst Syrians who believe the only explanation for the lack of military support is due to the West's desire to keep a weak dictator in place so that Israel is not challenged as the regional power)
    - Extremely limited trust in HMG following Iraq (and domestic trust scandals)
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    Default A Canadian mother who didn't know

    A taster for this Calgary, Canada mother's journey
    His mother, Christianne Boudreau, noticed the change as well. The year before her son left, he became secretive and argumentative. He peddled 9/11 conspiracy theories and said the media weren’t telling the truth about what was happening to Muslims around the world. “He would get pretty worked up about it and conversations could get pretty heated,” she said. He started working out at the gym and would go on hikes with his prayer group. But Mrs. Boudreau thought it was just his nature to immerse himself in his interests. “Certain things, he’d get really zestful about,” she said. “And then he’d get bored and move on to the next thing."


    When her son told her he would be travelling to Egypt to study Arabic, Mrs. Boudreau never thought he’d actually go through with it. He was always a big talker. The night before he was supposed to leave, in November 2012, the family went out for dinner and he came back to her townhouse and played video games with his little brother. He seemed relaxed and happy-go-lucky. Only when he called from the plane in the morning did she realize he was actually going to do it...I had no idea,” Mrs. Boudreau said.

    Link:http://news.nationalpost.com/2014/04...dead-in-syria/
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    Default So what can Muslim women say to loved ones?

    A column by a British Muslim activist:http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/wom...-early-on.html
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    Default First UK fighter in Syria convicted: a liar and a fantasist

    A strange case and one wonders if the threat at home is real. The BBC's detailed commentary opens with:
    A Portsmouth man accused of trying to join Islamist fighters in Syria has become the first person in the UK to be convicted of a terrorist offence relating to the conflict. A jury at Kingston Crown Court found Mashudur Choudhury guilty of preparing for acts of terrorism after a two-week trial. But what exactly was Choudhury up to - and why does this conviction matter?

    If there is one thing that is true about Mashudur Choudhury, it is that he is a liar and a fantasist.
    Link:http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-27491066 and http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-27488006

    I note his conviction is for:
    ...engaging in conduct in preparation of terrorist acts....The court heard he had travelled to Syria to attend a terrorist training camp. He was arrested at Gatwick Airport on his return to the UK......Prosecutors at the trial said Choudhury had wanted to be trained in the use of firearms and intended to pursue a "political, religious or ideological cause".
    One wonders if a conviction can be secured if someone claims their fight was to protect the civilian population.

    The later BBC report asks:
    The outcome also raises another question: what will happen to the large numbers of British men still in Syria? Will these men ever come back?
    Yesterday I caught part of an excellent WoTR online discussion and Shiraz Maher, of ICSR, stated that two hundred and fifty "fighters" had already returned to the UK. I will listen again this evening:http://warontherocks.com/2014/05/the...aeda-and-isis/

    Background on SWC

    There are two recent, relevant threads Today's Wild Geese: Foreign Fighters in the GWOT and a smaller one Foreign fighters in Syria: a crime minus a motive?
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 08-09-2014 at 02:36 PM. Reason: Merged to here, was in a two post thread
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    Default Legal or illegal to fight in Syria

    A fascinating glimpse into the "shades of grey" over the legality and illegality of fighting in Syria, for UK nationals / residents. Under the headline:
    Syria conflict: British jihadists are nothing like the freedom fighters of the Spanish Civil War
    Prosecutorial discretion:
    For example, let’s imagine a Briton is visiting family in Syria and the neighbourhood comes under attack by regime forces, or indeed rebel ones. If said Briton were to subsequently use weapons to help defend family members or other innocent people, he would not necessarily be prosecuted in the UK. However, those who join terrorism-linked groups and proactively engage in militant activity are far likelier to be prosecuted.
    Link:http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worl...Civil-War.html

    I suspect discretion was used when many exiles returned to Libya, to my knowledge no-one was arrested.
    davidbfpo

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    Default Mum reported her son missing

    Which led to a CT investigation, with two young B'ham men being charged with terrorism in Syria; in part:
    Yusuf Sarwar .. and Nahin Ahmed ... both aged 22 - pleaded guilty to preparing for acts of terrorism, at Woolwich Crown Court today.

    In May last year the men purchased one-way tickets to Turkey and later went on to cross the Syrian border. When they returned to the UK after eight months away, officers from the West Midlands Counter Terrorism Unit were waiting at Heathrow to arrest them.

    Traces of military grade explosives were found on their clothing and pictures on their camera showed them brandishing weapons. Detectives used satellite imaging to establish from the photographs that the men had been in and around Aleppo - one of the main conflict zones.
    Link:http://www.west-midlands.police.uk/l...s.aspx?id=1214
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    Default foreign fighters in Syria: the rise of women and the challenge of prevention

    Rachel Briggs of the London-based think tank, the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD), has studied counter-radicalisation for a long time and blogs occassionally.

    Her blog 'Foreign fighters in Syria: the rise of women and the challenge of prevention' appears to be UK-orientated, but has a wider application in Europe and maybe beyond. Especially over the absence of a counter-narrative:http://rachelbriggs.wordpress.com/20...of-prevention/

    Readers will be familiar with my viewpoint that there is no counter-narrative, so now here is Rachel, with my emphasis:
    There is also an urgent need to compete with violent extremists for the attention of our young people. Extensive social media analysis conducted by my team at ISD reveals that there is almost no counter-narrative activity occurring online. There is no shortage of talk at expensive international conferences about the need for counter-narratives, but there is very little action. Governments are on safe and familiar ground funding meetings, but struggle to get effective counter-messaging campaigns signed off by risk-averse Ministers.
    She cites some private work, have a peek - it is for a young Muslim audience:http://www.youtube.com/user/abdullahx
    davidbfpo

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    Default FAST (Families Against Stress and Trauma)

    A private group whose sons have left to fight in Syria:
    Families matter because they are torn apart when young people travel to Syria and Iraq. Families make a difference because they have the power to reach out and stop this. All families should feel empowered to reach out if they are worried about a loved one who might be thinking of travelling to the region.

    We believe families are not alone. That’s why we’ve made a short film with three people talking openly about the impact of a family member travelling. They each speak of the pain and anguish they felt when their loved one left the UK. It’s hard for us to convey the heartbreak, which is why we let them speak for themselves.

    Link to website, the 9 minute video is there:http://www.familiesmatter.org.uk/
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    Default

    Hat tip to WoTR for the article 'The Dangerous Nexus Between Radicalism in Britain and Syria’s Foreign Fighters', the author Roger Farhat, a private sector analyst:http://warontherocks.com/2014/08/the...eign-fighters/
    davidbfpo

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    Default We can’t legislate our way out of the Isis crisis

    As the UK debates what next, with some frankly bizarre proposals, an academic who has watched has a column:http://www.theguardian.com/commentis...sation-britons

    Instead, government focus needs to be upon enabling the messy, unpredictable and contingent “dirty work” of local counter-terrorism on the ground, and learning the lessons about what works and what doesn’t from recent experience. This reflects what we know from a growing body of research about the radicalisation process....In sum, what the more successful police forces had worked out was that soft power was more effective in solving problems than an over-reliance on the hard power of coercive law enforcement. It is this understanding that should be developed.
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    Default Prevent is a tainted brand and a failed strategy

    Alyas Karmani, a British Muslim based in Bradford, Yorkshire has long been involved in counter-radicalisation and was interviewed in The Independent on Sunday. He starts with:
    What the recent events in Syria show is the abject failure of a counter-messaging and counter-narrative strategy – it just isn't there. We've been talking about this de-radicalisation strategy for many years and yet there's nothing in place.

    (Later) Prevent is a tainted brand and a failed strategy; you can't keep on giving life to something which is fundamentally broken. It is disproportionate in that is focuses on Muslim extremism. Prevent is defunct now as far as I'm concerned. It has no credibility whatsoever.
    Prevent being part of the UK national CT strategy.

    Link:http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk...m-9687897.html
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    Default Jihadis cannot be turned unless they are ready, professor warns

    A short article by Professor Andrew Silke, whilst it may apply beyond the UK his focus and examples are British:

    A rather sharp passage:
    We have to be realistic about how effective it is going to be. There has never been an equivalent programme, for example, for the IRA or other paramilitary groups. And part of the reason is people don’t think it will work for the IRA. But they think it may work on Jihadis because there has been some success in countries like Saudi Arabia.
    This week both David Cameron and Ed Miliband have referred to extending counter-radicalisation schemes - with mandatory participation = so this comment is noteworthy:
    But one of the key issues of these programmes is they are voluntary. You can’t force people to do it and one third of prisoners referred to the Healthy Identities Programme have refused to take part
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    Default

    I missed this report's publication in July 2014 by an unconventional advocacy group, once known as Caged Prisoners,, now simply Cage:http://cageuk.org/publication/blowba...reat-they-pose

    It is a measure of how this group has moved that a press release this week stated:
    Returning fighters from Syria should be allowed to return to the UK and be granted an amnesty. However, where police have found clear evidence of war crimes, then those crimes should be prosecuted accordingly.
    Link:http://cageuk.org/article/british-fo...rs-way-forward
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 07-12-2018 at 10:29 AM.
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    Default

    A twelve minute long Sky News Special which has some new material, notably an ex-jihadist's explanation of what is involved and the role of gangs, social media and the need to do something:http://news.sky.com/story/1336298/br...s-uk-extremism
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    Default The UK’s Counter-Radicalization Strategy Just Failed; What Now?

    James Brandon, a British observer of the CT scene has this long column on WoTR, which is rather surprising given his past affiliations to UK "think tanks" who sought a change in the direction of 'Prevent', not that is was a failed strategy:http://warontherocks.com/2014/09/uk-...iled-what-now/

    Significantly, the causes of Prevent’s failure share much in common with other Western attempts to strengthen liberal and democratic Muslim forces in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and elsewhere over the past decade. These include: Choosing the wrong partners, Islamist subversion of new organizations and highly effective Islamist counter-campaigning.
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    Default Sharia as a platform for jihad in Britain

    "The significant support for sharia among the younger generation of British Muslims and the spreading of Wahhabism in the United Kingdom has two consequences: One, clerics find themselves in an influential role as the primary interpreters of sharia, and two, many young Muslims are exposed to the idea of armed jihad through their local mosques. As a result, local jihadist clerics such as Sheikh Abdullah el-Faisal and foreign- based ones such as Anwar Al-Awlaki (now deceased) were able to reach out and encourage young Britons into waging armed jihad."

    http://www.albanygovernmentlawreview...sue=2&page=347

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    Default The Danish way

    A short UK C4 News report on the Danish approach when fighters return home:http://www.channel4.com/news/can-ret...d-into-society

    The C4 News website does not have the relevant video clip.

    A police officer's explanation:
    Everybody is in agreement, early prevention of terrorism is needed. And so we start out with dialogue. We screen each fighter, we assess their needs. We engage with their families and friends, and their mosque, so that they have a well-functioning network around them. This can reduce the risk of them being further radicalised....There is always a risk but the flaw would be to apply tough measures to soft targets, people who are not that radicalised. We believe there are fighres we can still turn around. If you apply harsh measures to them it would be counter-productive, because you risk producing the very violent extremists you are trying to prevent.
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