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British Video Aimed at Stopping Radicalized Women's Trips to Syria

  • Henry Ridgwell

British authorities have released a video aimed at potentially radicalized Muslim women in Britain to try to counter propaganda from the Islamic State group.

Release of the video followed several cases of Muslim women leaving to join Islamic State in Syria, often taking their families with them.

The video features a young boy with a British accent who calls on followers to "kill the nonbelievers."

The boy was recognized by his grandfather in London, Sunday Dare — whose daughter Grace traveled to Syria in 2012 and entered an arranged marriage.

The grandfather offered this message to his daughter: “She should come back and face the music, because she has let herself down.”

Grace Dare is one of about 50 women who have traveled to Syria to join Islamic State. Such is the concern about these women's actions that British authorities released their video, presented by London’s senior counterterrorism coordinator, Helen Ball.

“We’re deeply concerned about the numbers of women, girls and whole families who are making the decision to travel to Syria," Ball said. "They’re unaware of the dangers they face when they get there.”

Three Syrian refugee mothers spell out those dangers in the video. A woman named Isaaf says, “Your children are now living in in security, are provided with schools, a nice life and a beautiful future. So why are you taking them to a war zone?”

Counterterrorism expert Afzal Ashraf of the Royal United Services Institute has interviewed many women who have escaped Islamic State territory. He said he'd encountered the "stories of women being forced to divorce their husbands and marry other people; women being separated from their families; women being killed because they didn’t conform to the dress code; rape; and all sorts of horrible things.”

It’s estimated that around 800 British citizens have traveled to join Islamic State. The high number has prompted criticism of the government’s so-called "Prevent" strategy aimed at countering radicalization — but it’s not totally justified, Ashraf said.

“To judge the success of government strategies in Prevent, what you are doing is trying to measure something that didn’t happen," Ashraf said. "How many people didn’t become radicalized? Which is really the objective of Prevent. It’s really difficult to measure that.”

It’s hoped that recent strategic victories against Islamic State, such as the retaking of the city of Ramadi by Iraqi forces, will diminish Islamic State’s territory and its appeal to radicalized Muslims.