“I want to ensure that children no longer leave home to die” said Véronique Roy, the mother of a young man converted to Islam, who became radicalised and left for the Jihad in Syria. “We learned of his death through Whatsapp. It was terrible. It is too late for my son but we have to put an end to this nightmare” she said at the hearing on “Women and radicalisation leading to terrorism” held by the Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination.
Véronique Roy warned against the radicalisation of young people at local level. “It is happening here" she said and called for preventive measures at local level, saying that radicalisation did not necessarily take place via the Internet. Although the introduction of a free hotline to help identify people who were becoming radicalised was a good idea, it did not prevent young people who were radicalised from leaving. “The level of radicalisation of my son was estimated to be 70% whereas, as I later found out, he was already in Syria” she said, adding that with hindsight it was easy to identify the initial signs of his radicalisation: he had stopped taking piano lessons, stopped his studies, he could not sit at the table with someone who was having a glass of wine and he refused to attend a church funeral service.
For Melanie Smith, expert at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue in London, the search for identity and a form of empowerment, confusion as to where they fit into society and the promise of sisterhood are pull factors for radicalisation. Candidates for departure were told that they can go for humanitarian reasons in order to help the population. "However, there is a huge diversity of profiles of radicalised women and therefore no single solution for all", she said adding that counter narratives based on the stories of women who returned from ISIS controlled territories were a powerful prevention tool. These stories can help them understand the hard living conditions in a war zone, with a lack of services and mobility.
The hearing was held in the context of the preparation of the opinion to be written by Gabriella Heinrich (Germany, SOC) on the report “Preventing the radicalisation of children by fighting the root causes” prepared by Sevinj Fataliyeva (Azerbaïjan, EC) for the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development. The debate in plenary is scheduled for the next session (18-22 April, Strasbourg.)