Today’s teenagers have been drawn to the prospect of a better life in Syria. This is becoming increasingly worrying and dangerous. A teenager from West Yorkshire is thought to be the UK’s youngest suicide bomber to date at the tender age of 17. Talha Asmal was one of four bombers who launched an attack near to an oil refinery, south of Baiji.
Since this recent tragedy in mid-June, the youngest suicide bomber in the UK was Hasib Hussain, also from Yorkshire. Hussain detonated a bomb during the 7th of July 2005 attacks, aged just 19. The impact resulted in instant death for Hussain and 13 others.
Asmal’s family have been ‘devastated’ by the news and described their son as ‘never harbouring ill will or violent views’. The family also claim that Asmal may have been exposed to radicalization and extremism through the web by individuals who ‘prayed on his innocence’.
Recently, the flow of young men and women to Syria to join the fight with Isis has steadily increased and continues to be a threat to Britain’s efforts to counter terrorism. Many youths have successfully crossed the border in Turkey to come to Syria, leaving their families, homes and education behind.
However, these events beg the question: what is so appealing about a life in Syria for a teenager? One answer is the slow process of radicalisation via the internet and the influence of videos posted by extremest groups. The content of these videos infiltrates a young and naive mind by brainwashing it with the promise of honour. Some teenagers also have the idea that becoming a jihadi brings eternal rewards and that it can give you a lasting identity across the world as a figure of strength and power. In other words, it allows them to live a life far removed from that of the average British teenager. The possibility of handling mature tasks such as shooting and using bombs can bring a level of childlike excitement to the whole situation, but what many fail to realise is that this is not a game. Perhaps they realize this once the harsh reality of everything kicks in, but unfortunately for them, by then it is too late to return. The sight of mutilated bodies and the gruesome murders were not advertised, only the joyful excursions and adventures one would embark on with their ‘brothers’.
Overall, radicalisation has recently become one of the main focuses of headlines. Many have called it ‘brainwashing’ and I personally believe that it is a terrifying thing to be pushed into such atrocities and inhumane behaviour. Some may say that Islamophobia is a catalyst for radicalisation, as Muslims may feel more accepted and comfortable among those who accept them. A plausible reason, but by no means right. We cannot forget that jihadis are not the first to die for their religion, and they should not be condemned for this reason. Instead, they are condemned for the callous acts they enact upon innocent souls who have no place in their conflict.
This issue needs to be tackled by the government, who currently have an anti-terrorism strategy called ‘Prevent’. In order to bring social radicalisation to a halt, Prevent needs to tackle the media being leaked from Middle Eastern areas which is infecting the minds of today’s teenagers, and then onwards and upwards to tackle the broader problem of radicalisation.