A single mother has travelled to Turkey in a dangerous attempt to rescue her injured son, who had joined Isis having been radicalised on the internet.
The woman, known only as Linda, spoke to the BBC’s Inside Out London about being reunited with her 21-year-old son who she says has subsequently faced “pressure” from MI5 to provide information.
Her son, referred to as James, became radicalised via the internet before flying out to Syria to join Isis, who refer to themselves as the Islamic State. Once there he was wounded and became lost before eventually finding his way across the border into Turkey where he was reunited with his mother four months after his disappearance.
He is one of an estimated 600 British youths who have secretly travelled to Syria this year having been radicalised.
“I only found out after he left because he knew I would have stopped him, I would have been against it,” she said.
“He felt quite upset about the oppression that’s going on there and, in his naive mind, he thought he could go out there and help. So he just went.
“I was very shocked, I was terrified.”
Linda, 45, from north London, described how her son, previously a Christian, decided to convert to Islam three years ago because “it gave him a strong moral compass”. He spent hours researching and educating himself on his new religion on the internet, which is where Linda believes he was radicalised.
Despite receiving phone calls from her son after he had travelled abroad, Linda said she was in constant “fear and panic” about his safety.
Britain at War: Opinions on the ground
Britain at War: Opinions on the ground
1/8 CAROLINE LUCAS Green Party MP for Brighton Pavillion
“Whatever we decide people will die. Be it directly at the hands of ISIL, whose barbarity seems to know no limits. Or when they are hit by bombs dropped by the US, France or the UK.”
2/8 DR ANDREW WHITE Chaplain of St George’s Anglican Church in Baghdad
“Isis is an evil, evil force – the only way to control these bigots is to further put at risk Iraqi people.”
3/8 DR NAFEEZ AHMED Executive director of the Institute for Policy Research & Development
“We might win some short term battles but we will create more grievances that will empower the IS cause in the long run.”
4/8 DAVID DAVIS Former shadow Home Secretary
“The moral case is clear, the practical case is not - what do we do when we stop bombing?”
5/8 GENERAL JAMES CONWAY Retired US Marine
“I don’t think President Obama’s plan has a snowball’s chance in hell of succeeding.”
6/8 NADIM ZAHAWI Baghdad born Conservative MP
“We need to learn that we can’t do nation-building, it has to be up to the local community to decide who they want to govern themselves.”
7/8 RICHARD WILLIAMS Former commanding officer of the SAS
“Friday’s debate lacked any meaningful reference to the political solution that must be considered in Iraq if these bombs are to mean anything.”
8/8 CHRIS DOYLE Director of Council for Arab-British Understanding
“The bigger issue is to actually help Syria, but if you just want to defeat IS then you lose sight of that overall goal.”
“So then I had another tactic,” she told the programme. “I don’t know if I did it consciously. [I said] ‘I can’t cope with living in this flat without you, because it’s too upsetting, so I’m going to go and work abroad’. I think that took the power out of his rebellion. That was the catalyst to him coming back.”
James was injured attempting to reach his mother after getting caught in fierce cross-fire between two rival factions, which left several people dead, and was injured himself by shrapnel in the shoulder.
Learning of her son’s injury Linda travelled to the Turkish-Syrian border town of Adana and navigated her son back to safety using an ipad, adding: “I’ve never been to Turkey before so I didn’t really know where I was going or what I was doing.”
“And then he just suddenly turned up. I was so relieved. I did actually manage to get my son back. I allowed my son to come back and accepted him with love.”
Nonetheless, James, who Linda describes as being “traumatised” and in “a fragile state” when she rescued him, has received no de-radicalisation counselling from the government despite being interviewed by police on his return and approached by MI5 for information.
“He got quite a lot of hassle from the secret services,'' Linda said. ''Trying to sort of pressure him into giving them information. He wasn't able to do that.
''They were quite insensitive. They were sort of bargaining with him and saying we'll offer things but in exchange for information.”
On the programme Linda expressed concern her son may return to extremism, adding: ''We've got to be careful with young people, you know, young people can make sudden decisions that are not good, they can do dangerous things.
''I think at that stage, whatever the person's doing, they need support, you know.''
Additional reporting by PAReuse content