Syria conflict: British women are fighting with rebels

Ten women from the UK are believed to have gone to fight against President Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria, according to an expert.

Two teenagers from Portsmouth, a Surrey woman, two Londoners and five others from cities across the north of England have reportedly joined rebel fighters in the war-torn country.

The news comes after the Metropolitan Police appealed to women to inform on male relatives planning to go to Syria to fight.

Shiraz Maher, head of outreach at the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation, Kings College London, told the Mirror newspaper: “Most British jihadists go to Syria for sincere reasons to help in what they believe is a struggle against oppression but many don’t appreciate the reality on the ground.

“There are around 10 British women out there, we believe, and most have travelled to Syria with their husbands.

“They go believing they will fight jihad to overthrow Assad but may actually be getting in the way of the rebellion by joining groups and fuelling the infighting they are involved in.”

He warned that some of the volunteers might find themselves with groups like the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which has clashed with other rebel groups.

“Depending on who they sign up with, like ISIS, they will end up fighting some of the original rebel groups such as the Free Syrian Army. There is evidence that in the complex struggles ISIS in particular has been infiltrated by Assad’s forces,” the academic said.

On Wednesday, the Metropolitan Police’s deputy assistant commissioner, Helen Ball, said the force wanted to “ensure that people, particularly women, who are concerned about their loved ones [going to Syria to fight] are given enough information about what they can do to prevent this from happening”.

“This is not about criminalising people. It is about preventing tragedies,” she added.

It is thought about 600 British people have gone to fight in Syria since the conflict began three years ago with more than 300 returning. About 20 are believed to have been killed.

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