Three girls from Bethnal Green Academy went missing on the 17th of February, supposedly with the intention of leaving the country and joining the Islamic State in Syria. Kadiza Sultana, Amira Abase and Shamima Begum are 15-16 years old, and are followers of the Islamic religion, who have worried their families incredibly since their disappearance. One  of the teenagers was formerly in touch with Aqsa Mahmood who has been located in Syria for over a year, and has married an IS soldier, and it is suspected that she encouraged the girls to join her.

But why is this happening? The average person would never dream of entering Syria at this point in time, let alone joining IS. What is it that the jihadists are saying that is not only encouraging grown men from England and around the world to join and fight them, but now young teenage girls as well?

The Islamic State established themselves in North Syria and Iraq with the intention of creating a caliphate, in which traditional Islamic values will be reinforced. To achieve this, IS have been spreading fear via social networking (remember the beheading of multiple journalists) and now seem to be recruiting young girls who have joined them from abroad to encourage other young girls from home. They have created a form of propaganda to lure young girls over, claiming that within their caliphate they will establish a ‘utopia’, a ‘humanist’ establishment, in which young girls will be provided with ‘loving husbands’ and home comforts. And it seems to be working, as fifty to sixty women from England have currently joined IS.

However there are pictures of these young girls now handling guns (permitted only in very extreme circumstances normally), and late last year came the disturbing situation of the Yazadi girls (a religious minority within Iraq) and their experience of being used as IS’ sex slaves. So it seems clear that these girls have been given a bad deal, and now, it is more likely that they cannot take it back, and will remain with IS. It is odd that these girls are influenced to join the IS ‘utopia’, particularly because of the fact that it seems they have not been radicalised at home, nor in school. Many argue that these young girls are looking for adventure, a new chapter in life, but clearly this is a distorted view of the Islamic State.

If these girls are going to Syria to truly become wives of soldiers and create there own homes, at the age of 15-17, how can we stop them? Is it that they should be educated within schools that women can do more than just reproduce and keep a home, contrary to traditional values? Or perhaps it is the Islamic religion that may be implanting these ideas into young girls, and thus it should be the parents’ right to educate them. It seems that these young girls have ambition, but it has been corrupted by repressive and outdated views. The most perplexing part of this situation is the fact that the violence and conflict in Syria is so heavily broadcasted, that these girls must have known that by fleeing, they are putting their lives at stake. It seems impossible that any young girl would wish to voluntarily visit a war zone.

One way of preventing girls choosing to go to IS in Syria is perhaps more education on the current situation, particularly in parts of England that seem at risk of extremist activity. Some suggest that parents should look out for any signs that seem unusual in their children. But it comes to the point where one starts to consider this becoming a McCarthy-style witch hunt, in which all young Islamic girls are kept under surveillance regardless of whether they seem to show any extremist tendencies. If this were to be the case, Islamophobia would increase further, and a sort of paranoia may begin, as well as many young girls possibly being wrongly accused.

Twitter has recently shut down 1,500 twitter accounts of supposed ISIS supporters after the group ‘Anonymous’ publicly posted a list of IS followers online. It may be (or it is even likely) that there are more than 1,500 IS supporters online, and that Twitter, Facebook and so on, are not doing enough to stop the propaganda that is being posted, or perhaps it is the government’s job. The debate of privacy on the internet has risen once again due to the fact that young girls can get in touch with IS followers and be influenced by IS propaganda so easily. How would the government distinguish between who should be monitored and who shouldn’t? Is it that any twitter account of a young girl that clearly has Islamic beliefs should be under surveillance, or does this go back to the idea of a witch hunt? There seems to be a thin line between protecting and accusing these girls who are vulnerable to the influence of IS.

It is a wonder how these missing girls went unnoticed in an airport, when none of them were above the age of 18, and they were heading to Turkey, the main stop before catching a flight to Syria. It seems ultimately sad that someone would have to ‘keep watch’ for these kinds of situations in the first place.

Either way, it is distressing and almost unthinkable that it is not only soldiers that IS want, but young girls too. There are reported ‘rules’ in their community that girls can be married from the age of nine, and must stay at home at all times, unless to pray.

It is now time to choose between strict censorship on the internet, or perhaps the eradication of dogmatic and strict religious values, if that is even possible, but in the meantime, all that can be done is to wait and see whether the three girls, and any other misled girls, are able to leave IS and return home safely.