JAN Trust is a multi-award winning charity empowering and providing leadership for women in order to create positive and active citizens of society

Daesh,

On Internet Safety Day – let’s commit to defending our families

It’s Internet Safety Day today and I can’t stress just how important it is for parents to be aware of what their kids are looking at online. All teenagers crave their personal space and so we have to approach this with tact and diplomacy. But there are well-recognised warning signs when your son or daughter is being groomed online by extremists or worse, terrorists.

This isn’t about parents smothering their children with too much attention or feeling excluded from their children’s lives. It’s about the reality of groups like Daesh and Al Qaeda targeting teens with some pretty horrific material. Recent output from these groups in English and other languages has included guides to carrying out bomb attacks, knifings and kidnappings.

Alongside the text are diagrams going into explicit detail of where to plunge the knife or how to send a letter bomb. All of this presented as if committing a terror act was the most natural thing in the world. One can only imagine the impact this could have on an impressionable or highly disturbed mind. In fact, one doesn’t have to imagine it – a string of recent atrocities should have made the risk crystal clear to all of us.

As Daesh faces defeat for its so-called “caliphate” in Syria and Iraq, it’s gone into hyper-drive on social media, urging anybody to carry out brutal attacks in its name. This shows us what’s particularly dangerous about our new digital world – that terror groups can not only spread their message, but also remotely direct and guide individuals to perpetrate murder –  sometimes on a massive scale as we saw in Nice and Orlando.

So how does online radicalisation happen? Recent court trials have evidenced in detail how young people are sucked into social media support networks, where they are given a sense of being and a globalised terrorist identity. They are often contacted via Twitter then drawn into the darker corners of the web, encrypted spaces where conversations are harder to monitor. There is no single route to being radicalised online but there are some very well worn paths.

Frighteningly, we’ve seen teenagers engaged in direct conversations with a charismatic Daesh killer in Syria or Iraq who will give them easy answers to life’s problems. Their young targets are presented with a binary choice between the world of disbelief and that of Daesh with its twisted and corrupt version of Islam. This has proven very seductive to some young men and women because they don’t hear alternative and corrective viewpoints. Instead of turning to parents, teachers and faith leaders for guidance, they listen to their Daesh handler online or the rants of extremist hate preachers on YouTube.

The internet should be about spreading wisdom, but instead it has disseminated fake news and totalitarian ideologies. It has risked polarising young people with the toxic combination of both Far Right and Islamic terrorist material. Both of these forms of extremism relish an end to compromise and reasoned debate. The vicious slanging matches and supremacist insults on social media are their natural form of debate. Neo-fascists and Islamic terrorists are not interested in using the online space to educate and inform, to them it’s about forming battle lines and hardening attitudes. We simply can’t let that happen.

For those of us who still believe in truth and honesty, these can seem like grim times. But this is why Web Guardians© runs such valued sessions, so we can come together to defend those we love from lies and hate-filled violence. In our school playgrounds and university coffee bars, there are people being deceived by online demagogues or watching indescribably brutal executions and slaughter circulated by the Daesh PR machine.

We’ve endured this situation for a long time but also learned how to contain it and push back against the hatemongers. On this Internet Safety Day, let’s commit once more to protecting our families and neighbourhoods from poisonous views. We all cherish free speech and democracy. But we need to recognise those who are using the power of social media to wreck lives and set us against each other.

For more information and to know what you can do – come and attend one of our Web Guardians© sessions.

Sajda Mughal

Jan Trust

 

JAN Trust in Press

Our work was recently featured in the BBC News and radio. Our Director, Sajda Mughal, spoke of the need to stop some young Muslims being radicalised via their mothers. The piece covered our Web Guardians(c) programme equipping mothers with the key skills to go online and be able to safeguard their children and society.Our work was recently featured in the BBC News and radio. Our Director, Sajda Mughal, spoke of the need to stop some young Muslims being radicalised via their mothers. The piece covered our Web Guardians(c) programme equipping mothers with the key skills to go online and be able to safeguard their children and society.

Press also spoke to some of the mothers who were part of the programme in London and how it helped them and their children. The article is below and the radio coverage and be heard here: CLICK HERE

The only Muslim survivor of the 7/7 bombings says she is desperate to stop young Muslims being radicalised. And now Sajda Mughal has herself found a radical solution to extremism: Muslim mothers.

Ms Mughal has spent most of her adult life fighting Islamic extremism.

On 7 July 2005 she was running late and had taken the Piccadilly line to her job in the City.

She believes there was just one other Muslim on board her Tube train - Germaine Lindsay, whose bomb was to kill 27 people on board, including himself.

Ms Mughal says: "What happened on 7/7 basically made me think about why those four had carried out the attack, and in what ideology, which was obviously an incorrect ideology."

'Society's nurturers'

Now 31, she is director of the JAN Trust, which provides support and advice to women she describes as coming from the margins of society: "Often they have no education, no English and no employment."

Last month the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said Muslim children who are at risk of being radicalised by their parents should be taken into care.

But Ms Mughal's solution to the problem of radicalisation is the creation of a group of Muslim mothers to fight on the front line of the battle against extremist ideology in Islam.

One of the JAN Trust's declared aims is to "empower women as society's nurturers", and its latest scheme, called the Web Guardians, aims to give the mothers of young Muslims the online know-how to stop children being radicalised behind their own bedroom doors.

Ms Mughal explains the philosophy behind the programme: "We are equipping these Muslim mothers with the key skills, with the knowledge in order for them to go online and to monitor their children.

"But we provide them with a counter-narrative for them to have discussions with the children in a safe offline environment."

In a downstairs room at the JAN Trust's office near Alexandra Palace in north London, seven women sit in a circle.

As well as Ms Mughal and her interpreter there are mothers whose families originate from disparate Muslim communities.
Sajda Mughal receiving an award

Sajda Mughal is determined to combat Islamic fundamentalism

Sajda Mughal is determined to combat Islamic fundamentalism

Zahra is Somali; Maryam is Palestinian; Muneer comes from Iran; and Samina and Seema are both Pakistani.

As well as their Muslim faith, what they have in common are teenage children.

Maryam tells of her son's anger with the situation in Gaza, where her family come from: "When they see the way things are going, it wasn't right. It's double standards."

'Grievance about Syria'

As she speaks the others nod their heads in tacit sympathy.

"But now they go for Syria. My son was in a demonstration for Syria because they say something is not right," says Maryam.

All the women say their teenagers are curious and often angry about events in the countries where their families orginated, as well as being keen to do something.

The places most often up for discussions are Syria, Iran and Egypt.

In the past this anger on the part of young Muslims have been channelled into radicalisation. But Ms Mughal believes these mothers' interventions with their children could stop that happening in the future.

She says mothers are a much greater influence than the mosque or school attended by teenagers.

Ms Mughal says of Maryam: " Her son has a grievance about Syria, but he has channelled it positively by attending a demonstration rather than destructively".

A study by the JAN Trust found more than 90% of the Muslim mothers it spoke to lacked web access, and were unaware what their teenage children were viewing online.

The Web Guardians project teaches mothers how to use the web before they learn how to look at their children's internet history.

Part of the course involves exposing them to the violent language and imagery used by extremist websites, with shocking results for some of them.

Ms Mughal's interpreter, Rafaat, a Muslim mother herself, told of the horrified reactions when they first saw such pictures: "When the photographs were shown there was silence and all of sudden I could hear… wow, what's happening?"

These mothers' shared experiences suggest this project might genuinely help prevent the radicalisation of some young Muslims.

London is a Diverse City - We Cannot Let a Terrorist Attack Stir up Hatred and Fear

Yesterday, in shocking and tragic scenes broadcast across the world, London suffered its first terrorist attack for over a decade. The British capital had not seen similar tragedy since the 7/7 bombings which claimed 52 lives and injured countless more.

The attacks yesterday, which claimed the lives of four people, including a police officer on duty at the time, and injured dozens more, took place at the heart of British democracy in Westminster when a truck drove into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge before crashing it outside parliament and trying to enter the Palace of Westminster, armed with a knife.

While the attacks themselves were, of course, shocking, what has been heart-warming has been London’s reaction. People from all sides have condemned the violence and expressed sympathy for the victims and their families without falling prey to the divisive anti-Islamic propaganda the far-right has, inevitably, tried to whip up.

When Tommy Robinson, ex EDL leader and Islamophobe, rushed to the scene of the attacks yesterday afternoon to spout his typical hate speech, he was ridiculed and branded a “vile opportunist”.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan released a statement yesterday vowing that “Londoners will never be cowed by terrorism”, and this sentiment has been mirrored across social media. The hashtag #WeStandTogether has been trending since the aftermath of the attacks yesterday evening with people rejecting the hatred that both those responsible for attacks and the far right are seeking to promote.

And it is just this solidarity and community support is ultimately what we need to ensure that such a tragedy does not happen again.

The fact that the assailant was British-born proves, once again, that the way of dealing with extremism is not a ban on immigrants or refugees, but a need to prevent people within our communities from becoming radicalised by predatory extremists.

While it is too early to know the exact motives of the assailant, as with other terrorist attacks carried out across Europe, these are invariably individuals who feel marginalised or isolated and have been targeted and “groomed” by extremist organisations and indoctrinated by their propaganda into carrying out such an atrocity.

The assailant was already known to MI5, indicating that he had shown signs of violent radicalisation. These are signs that should have been noticed by those around him - his friends, family and community. Had this been the case, these attacks could have been prevented.

Little is known about the attacker except that he was British-born, but earlier today Daesh took responsibility for the attacks, calling him a “soldier of the Islamic State”.
As far as we know, the assailant had never been to Daesh’s caliphate – meaning that he was, in all likelihood – indoctrinated online.

Online radicalisation, from both groups such as Daesh or the far right, is a growing problem, and one which parents are often unaware of or unsure how to deal with.

Countering this threat, as a community, is exactly what JAN Trust does with our Web Guardians© programme. We to prevent extremist radicalisation by educating parents about the dangers of extremist groups online so that they can counter these threats and, ultimately, ensure their children do not follow this same path.

o commemorate the victims, a service took place in front of Scotland Yard on Thursday morning, in front of the flame that burns as a tribute to all dead, and a vigil is planned for this evening at 6pm in Trafalgar Square.

At JAN Trust we want to express our deepest sympathies for all of the victims and their families and friends.

What we must now do is ensure that these attacks do not achieve their aim of dividing us but serve instead to unite us and work, together, so that such a tragedy is not allowed to happen again.

Mosul Families’ Resistance

Daesh’s heartless rule over the city of Mosul is a powerful, although horrific, story for today. But the other story – the story of the people’s resistance – is more powerful. This resistance is occurring beyond the military battle getting started to expel Daesh from the city; it is a quieter tale of extraordinary determination and courage.

Daesh like to run things.  They fancy themselves as administrators, not just as men with guns. So the largely empty classrooms, since the new school term began in September and until now, must have been a blow to their pride. Most families have resisted sending their children to school because of the Daesh “education” on offer: devoid of physics, maths, singing or sport, for example. Instead, “it’s just verses from the Koran, readings and chanting,” in the words of one mother. Her 8 year old son knows that Daesh killed his father. She is worried he will say something about that in the classroom and endanger his life – another reason she keeps him away from school.   

One school classroom in the liberated village of Tubzaw, just east of Mosul, is revealing. The writings on the board there were about different kinds of explosives, a ‘subject’ which had replaced maths and science classes. The necessity of resistance is powerfully urgent for one young boy who had once been taught by Daesh at this school. “They taught us about bullets”, he recalls, “they would say…these are infidels… my father told me to go to school and I said even if you kill me I won’t go to school”.  

Families, refusing to submit to the rule of Daesh, have sought every means to contact the outside world. Banned from using telephones, internet or satellite TV their determination to make their voices heard on occasion overcomes all odds. Via crackling phone lines they relate their horrific experiences to radio talk shows and TV stations in Erbil. They are trapped but they refuse to be silenced.  

Perhaps the most positive, profound consequence to emerge from the families’ nightmare under Daesh can be found in the words of one resident: “It has unified us”, she says, “there’s no difference between us now: not Sunnis, Shia or Kurds.  All of these people coming from all the different provinces to Mosul want to help Mosul.” Resistance doesn’t get stronger than this.

Mothers fighting radicalisation

Just before Christmas, we completed a number of our Web Guardians© programme across the UK educating Muslim mothers about extremism and the dangers of the Internet. Our aim in the Web Guardians© programme is to empower mothers to prevent radicalisation and online radicalisation in their own families and communities.

We’re happy to say, yet again, that the programme throughout the country was a great success! Each week we had a fantastic turnout, and we watched with pride as the mums became more engaged in the discussion week-on-week.

Many spoke of concerns about their children ranging from the internet, through to bullying, through to Islamophobia. This was their safe space where they could speak up and receive not only help from JAN Trust, but the understanding and empathy from mothers in similar situations.

Getting used to this open conversation is key to our battle in fighting extremism before it takes hold. If children do not feel as though they can air their views openly to their mothers, they may feel isolated and confused, leaving them prey to online radicalisation.

Below is a selection of the great quotes the mothers came up with:

“The teaching of Islam is beautiful. If there is unity in the house with the children, then after they die this unity will continue.”

“If you think killing one person will take you to paradise, you’re not just killing one – you’re killing their family and everyone they leave behind. This isn’t from Paradise.”

“I will teach my children the true teachings of Islam and of Jihad – and what that actually means.”

Inspirational words! We’re excited to pick up in 2017 where we left off in 2016 – encouraging dialogue, raising awareness about the dangers of extremism and empowering mothers to spread counter messages of hope and peace within their communities.

To find out more about our Web Guardians© programme, please visit our website: http://webguardians.org/

Press coverage - Mirror

The Mirror published a piece on our Director's 7/7 near death experience and the tireless work she has been carrying out since then with grass roots communities. The article can be found here as well as below:

I survived the 7/7 bombings and now I work to stop young people being drawn into extremism

That tube shouldn’t have been my tube, but I was running late. I worked in investment banking and I did that journey on the Piccadilly line every single day.

My routine was, without fail, to get on the first carriage. But that day I got on in the middle of the train. Had I got on my usual carriage, I may not be here today – that was the one Germaine Lindsay blew up with his bomb.

That fateful day

It was rush hour so the train was packed. It left Kings Cross and 10 seconds into the tunnel, it happened. A massive explosion, the biggest bang I’ve ever heard.

The whole train shook, everyone fell forward, it went dark and the emergency lights kicked in. Smoke started to fill the carriage and it was hard to breathe, so I took my jacket off to make a veil. People were screaming and trying to break the glass to escape but I was just frozen in shock.

It didn’t even cross my mind that it might be a bomb. I thought we’d derailed and my mind was racing, thinking, "Another train is going to crash into us and there’ll be a fireball and we’re going to burn to death".

I was preparing myself to die. My thoughts went to growing up, my family, my life was flashing in front of my eyes. I hadn’t said goodbye to my loved ones, I hadn’t got married, had children or travelled the world.

We were down there 40 minutes, but it felt like a lifetime. Eventually I heard the distant voice of a policeman saying, "We’re coming to get you". 

My heart had felt as if it was being strangled with a tight rope, and straight away the rope loosened. The police got us out of the carriage and escorted us down the tunnel and out of the station. It felt eerie. 

The emergency services were attending to the seriously injured, so the rest of us were left to our own devices. There were crowds everywhere and I remember thinking, "What the hell are you staring at?" I went across the road to McDonald’s, ran into the toilets and broke down.

I looked in the mirror and I was black from the smoke. I cleaned myself up and tried to call my mum, but the phone lines were down. There was no transport so I had to walk home to Haringey, in North London. 

I ran into my house, locked the door, closed the curtains and curled up on the sofa, waiting for my family to come and console me. I couldn’t turn on the news until the evening, and that’s when I found out it was a bomb.

It shook me, and knowing it was Muslim men shook me further. Being a Muslim, I know it clearly states in the Quran that if you take one innocent life, it’s as though you have taken the whole of humanity. What they did does not represent Islam.

I had to be signed off work, I couldn’t travel on the tube. I needed counselling, and a lot of family support got me through. When I went back to work six months later I was like a robot – my heart and mind were somewhere else. 

I had questions. Why would anyone do this? What could have been done to prevent it? What about the parents of the bombers? They gave birth to them, they wanted the best for them, they would not have wanted their children to take innocent lives. That’s when my life changed.

Making a difference

Not only did I decide to get married and have children – I now have two daughters, aged six and two – I turned my back on my career. I could have continued working my way up and earned lots of money, but I wasn’t happy. I wanted to make a difference. 

I started working with a charity called the JAN Trust, which helps marginalised, vulnerable women to lead more independent lives. I came on board to make a difference on the issue of extremism, working with mothers of young Muslims. 

Some of these women have never switched on a computer, so we teach them to go online and expose them to the issues of radicalisation. A lot of them don’t speak English and will often only be watching TV from their own country, so they can be unaware – during one session, we found that, around the time of the beheadings, only 4% of the women knew who ISIS were.

It’s so important to educate those who can make a difference. We give them the skills to challenge their children’s grievances in a positive way, so, let’s say they’re angry about the air strikes, how do they get their voices heard in a democratic way? 

We also work with schools. I’ve met students who sympathise with the 7/7 bombers. I told them my story, and put it into perspective – I could have been their sister, it was an indiscriminate attack against everyone, not just non-Muslims. We work with teachers too, as they have a duty to report radicalisation, and they’re feeling overwhelmed and ill-equipped to deal with it.

Often what causes young people to be radicalised is challenging their grievances in the wrong way, but there are also the issues of alienation and high unemployment among young Muslims. The rise of Islamaphobia feeds into radicalisation too. They’re manipulated through chat rooms and social media.

Everything that’s happened since 7/7, such as the Paris attacks and the American shootings, is disheartening and worrying, but we’re making a difference on a grass-roots level. Changing one person’s mind can be enough to stop an act of terrorism.

The effects of what happened to me are still with me. I have to get on the tube for meetings, but I couldn’t do it day to day, and on the tenth anniversary, my husband told me I was screaming about the tube in my sleep. 

I think about it every day. But everything happened for a reason and that day turned my life around. It strengthened my faith because it felt like an attack on Islam, thanks to the knock-on effect of Islamaphobia.

I’ve had death threats, my property vandalised, been told, "I’m going to slit your Muslim throat". I’ve feared for my life and my family want me to take a step back, but then they’ve won. They’re trying to break me down but I’m never, ever going to let that happen.

● 700 people were injured and 56, including the four terrorists, died in the 7/7 bombings. Germaine Lindsay killed 26 of them on the train Sajda was travelling on in Kings Cross. It was the deadliest single act of terrorism in the UK since the Lockerbie bombing, and the deadliest bombing in London since World War Two.

● The JAN Trust is an award-winning women’s charity providing support and assistance to vulnerable, marginalised women across the UK. Their services range from raising awareness and preventing violence against women and girls through to developing skills for empowerment and integration.

● In a study, 92% of the Muslim mothers JAN worked with had no understanding of what radicalisation is, according to research conducted by the JAN Trust’s Web Guardians(c) programme.

● In the last three years there has been a 65% increase in the number of Muslim women reporting Islamophobic incidents. The day after the Paris attacks, the JAN Trust received 15 reports of Islamophobia within an hour from Muslim women. The youngest victim of Islamophobia supported by the JAN Trust has been a seven-year-old girl.

To support JAN Trust, visit jantrust.org

Published 17th January 2016

The Women of Daesh

Even though the volume of people leaving Europe to join Daesh in Syria and Iraq has fallen,the proportion of these who are women is rising – very dramatically in France. Their online recruitment activity still presents a very real danger here in the UK and reinforces the need for preventative work.

This is why JAN Trust holds regular workshops to enable women to detect the early signs of radicalisation in their families and communities. Our Web Guardians© programme has helped women to push back against extremist messaging and confound Daesh recruiting efforts.

It’s difficult to imagine why any women would be convinced to join the terrorists. They have enslaved, raped and murdered women in the territory they seized from Iraq and Syria. The role they designate for women who travel to join them is as domestic slaves “secluded” from view. Worse, women and girls who have ended up in Daesh territory now find themselves being forced to fight to the death as the territory under Daesh control crumbles away.

Yet, there are women who are prepared to either leave for Syria or contemplate attacks in the west. Why is this? One reason is that the terrorists have sold a lie of empowerment. They present being a terrorist as some kind of liberation. The reality couldn’t be more different. This is a terror gang that treats women in a barbaric way. Beaten for infringing Daesh dress codes, stoned on charges of adultery or murdered for raising their voice.

Another reason women might consider joining Daesh is the myth of a tightly knit sisterhood. Glasgow born Aqsa Mahmood left for Syria and used Tumblr to present life with Daesh as something resembling a summer camp. The reality of what was going on was betrayed in letter posts where she gloried in the murder of Britons and fellow Muslims. As her own parents noted, Aqsa Mahmood had been thoroughly brainwashed.

Daesh preys upon vulnerable people through deceptive and manipulative language. It’s important to take measures to prevent this, reaching out to marginalised groups and spreading awareness of the reality behind the rhetoric of extremism and supporting people in identifying the process of radicalisation.

We owe it to every women and girl at risk of succumbing to Daesh to give them all the protection we can. By being super-informed about the threat from the terrorists, we can tackle them effectively. Knowledge if power. The more you know, the better able you are to answer questions from somebody who is in the process of being manipulated by Daesh.

Uniting For A Better Internet: What We Can All Do To Stop Extreme Content Reaching Our Kids

Hate speech, online ‘trolls’ and extremists who use the internet to target our children were thrust back into the headlines this week as MPs summoned tech giants to answer why they’re not doing more to stop it.

Executives from Facebook, Twitter and Google were asked by the Home Affairs select committee why they did not police their content more effectively.

The social media leaders were told their companies had a "terrible reputation" for dealing with problems.

It is a welcome move. Pressure needs to be put on these companies to do more. They are often accused of putting profit over the safeguarding of young people and at this hearing, MPs asked exactly that tough question.

The response was an acknowledgement that they are indeed not doing enough.

We are gravely concerned that terrorist organisations such as Daesh are ramping up their efforts to target young adults here in the UK via the platforms these tech giants provide, so any progress made to more effectively police content is great news.

Back in December 2016, Facebook, Twitter, Google and Microsoft announced they were teaming up to tackle extremist content. They pledged to work together to identify and remove extremist content on their platforms through an information-sharing initiative.

This represented a welcome first step. We hope that the Home Affairs select committee hearing will encourage further moves forward.

However, the content on these sites and apps is vast. We, as users, need to assist in policing and reporting far-right, terrorist or bullying content so that the tech companies can act.

And we also need to monitor what our children are accessing when online, whether that’s via computer or their smartphones.

Safer Internet Day 2017 was celebrated globally on Tuesday 7th February with the theme 'Be the change: unite for a better internet'. We published a blog on the day focusing on what parents can and should do to play their part in safeguarding our kids. This holds the key.

It’s right that the powers that be from the tech giants are taken to task about their safeguarding shortcomings and challenged about how and when they are going to start doing more to remove extreme content.

But each and every one of us must unite in our fight to ensure threatening posts which can lead to radicalised views do not reach and begin to indoctrinate our children.

We must educate ourselves and our children about online material and what to do if we come across it. Understanding that while the internet is an incredibly valuable resource it can pose a risk to our wellbeing.

At JAN Trust, we aim to help mothers who fear for their children’s safety online with our Web Guardians© project. Our sessions explore how to deal with the threats and how to speak with our children about them.

Our strategy begins right in our homes. We are encouraged by government moves to question the social media giants and hope this leads to a reduction of extremist content online. But we must work together, uniting for a better internet. And for a brighter future for our children.

Vulnerable Minds: How Daesh is Recruiting Iraqi Children and Targeting British Teenagers

As Iraqi forces’ liberation of Mosul continues, attention is increasingly focusing on what Daesh will do next.
 
It’s feared their leaders, members and sympathisers will ramp up their sinister efforts to target our young people here in Europe, calling for so-called ‘lone wolf’ attacks on home soil, prompting calls for us all to remain vigilant when it comes to protecting our children online.
 
One of Daesh’s most horrifying future strategies is the indoctrination and training of a new generation of fighters. As Daesh’s failed ‘caliphate’ collapses, hoards of fighters have been deserting the ranks – if they haven’t already been killed in combat or suicide attacks. Now, Daesh is preying on the most vulnerable and malleable minds: those of Iraqi and Syrian children.
 
The Independent recently published letters from young radicalised recruits to their parents, discovered at abandoned Daesh hideouts in eastern Mosul. They make for heart-wrenching reading.
 
One, written by Iraqi schoolboy Alaa Abd al-Akeedi, says: “My dear family, please forgive me. Don't be sad and don't wear the black clothes [of mourning]. I asked to get married and you did not marry me off. So, by God, I will marry the 72 virgins in paradise.” He was killed by his suicide vest shortly after. It’s thought he was just 16 years old.
 
The news agency Reuters has managed to gain access to relatives of the teenagers who left the notes.
 
Family members tell a story of innocence; of vulnerable, fragile minds being targeted and then indoctrinated. A man reveals that his teenage relative, who was recruited by Daesh and killed in a suicide attack, had been overweight and insecure and joined the jihadists after his father's death. He told Reuters: “His mind was fragile and they took advantage of that, promising him virgins and lecturing him about being a good Muslim. If someone had tempted him with drugs and alcohol, he probably would have done that instead.”
 
It is this last statement that hits home. As parents, we all understand the worry that our children will hang out in the ‘wrong crowd’ and get into drugs. Young minds are open to influence and eager to try new things – to ‘grow up’. It can be as easy as that.
 
In Iraq and Syria, young people may not be exposed to violence in the same format that our children are in the UK. Despite our efforts to shelter or protect them, our kids consume film, TV, online and video game violence to a point of such desensitisation that it is normalised. They witness the violence occurring in places like Syria and Iraq through their screens.
 
Syrian and Iraqi children on the other hand are directly witnessing violence on the streets in the most gruesome and horrific ways. Some have even been exposed to it under the regime of Daesh as the terrorist group took control of their neighbourhoods, yet even they are vulnerable to radicalisation.
 
Violence is glamourised in action films and video games in the virtual world British children often live in. The brutal realities of extreme violence are all too real for many Iraqi and Syrian children.
 
Some may be more susceptible to radicalisation than others. But all are vulnerable.
 
Phone apps and the Internet make it simple for a direct line to be formed between a Daesh militant in Iraq and our children here in the UK. Daesh knows that our young people are excited by video game violence, by the idea of handling a rifle and fighting an enemy.
 
Considering all of this, we must educate ourselves about the dangers and threats are children face and ensure lines of communication are open between us as parents and our children to protect them and prevent radicalisation.
 
At JAN Trust, we aim to help mothers who fear for their children’s safety online with our Web Guardians© project.
 
Many families have been destroyed by Daesh. JAN Trust is helping in the struggle against home-grown radicalisation so that more families do not have to suffer this same fate.
 
If you are interested in finding out more about Web Guardians© go to http://jantrust.org/projects/web-guardians
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