The death of Kadiza Sultana is the final act in the life of a British teenager radicalised by Daesh and lured to Syria. Young people all over Britain can remember this bright “straight A” pupil by making sure the terrorists no longer succeed in their online brainwashing. They can resolve to ensure that no more lives will be blighted and destroyed through propaganda pumped out across Twitter and the darker reaches of the web.
Vigilance must be our watchword. The number of young girls going to Syria and Iraq may have tailed off now but online radicalisation by Daesh continues. Thousands of social media accounts are targeting teens in their bedrooms with poisonous narratives. Teenagers who may be going through a tough time in their lives or struggling with their identity are still being preyed on by ISIS groomers goading them to commit acts of mass violence.
The growing problem is not people fleeing the country but the danger of home-grown attacks. Orlando, Nice and Paris have shown us how terrorists can activate vulnerable individuals over the web to commit the most appalling atrocities. If Kadiza was alive and at school in Bethnal Green today, it’s more than likely that Daesh would have told her to stay put and plan an attack in London instead. This is the new and very real menace that the terrorists pose to our young people.
It’s no longer a promise of a free home and a husband in Syria that is on offer but something less tangible but equally dangerous. Instead of life in a so-called caliphate in the Middle East, that is gradually being defeated, ISIS is promoting murder on our streets. In nearly all cases, this also means the death of the perpetrator. Nothing in Islam legitimises suicide and murder in the name of Allah. It is an appalling distortion of our faith by utterly cynical criminals.
Nobody believes the corny pictures of kittens and jars of Nutella that Daesh supporters used to post from Iraq and Syria to try and prove that life was normal over there. With half their territory gone in Iraq and a fifth recaptured in Syria, Daesh is entering a new and potentially much darker phase. Their war is heading in our direction. They believe that vulnerable young people are potential recruits for remotely activated slaughter.
Kadiza is a tragic footnote to the last phase of Daesh activity, luring British teenagers with seductive lies to the Middle East. But there will still be young people with grievances and vulnerabilities open to radicalisation. As the so-called Islamic State crumbles and falls as a territory, it will increasingly spread its poison around the world. Daesh has shown a callous disregard for using teenagers as fodder for suicide missions. We owe it to all our young people to protect them at what can be a turbulent stage of their life.
We should remember that Kadiza was a vulnerable teenager who was ensnared by Daesh. This is why it’s so critical that civil society groups like mine, Women Against Radicalisation Network (WARN), can intervene before Daesh gets its way.
Henna Rai, Founder of Women Against Radicalisation Network (WARN).