Online radicalisation by Daesh has taken a worrying new direction in recent months. Daesh have been using images of kittens and Nutella to draw vulnerable young people, especially girls, to join the terrorist group and travel to Syria.
In these images, the Daesh fighters are posing with jars of Nutella, staring seductively into the camera, whilst in others they are cuddling kittens and holding assault rifles. This change in direction by Daesh shows that they will do anything to attract susceptible young girls. They also want to appeal to young men with a promise of reward and heroism.
How do we protect our children and loved ones from these manipulative attempts to portray life in their so-called state in such a positive way?
Personal accounts from Daesh defectors tell of how recruiters appeal to young people by promising them a glorious life in the so-called Caliphate, but that real life experiences soon fall short of the promised expectations.
Daesh’s deliberate attempt to shift the image they present to the world is very worrying. In a bid to ‘soften’ their image and lure those most susceptible to their messages, they present an image of a modern, self sufficient ‘state’, with fighters even handing out sweets to children. This cynical change in direction is a far cry from the images and videos of beheadings, barbaric torture and killing the group have become infamous for.
Online Radicalisation of Girls
Last year, French journalist Anna Erelle (not her real name) went undercover online, posing as a 20-year-old convert, where she formed an online relationship with a member of the terrorist group called Bilel. She has spoken out about the evil manipulation she experienced.
In an interview, Anna discussed the strong feelings of hate she developed for Bilel, and how she could see why a young girl would be drawn to men like him. He would be in contact with her everyday, telling her he loved her and even called her “my baby”.
Anna also outlined who, in her view, is most at risk, “I think there are two kinds of girls. Ones that are very lost and want to go there [Syria] to find something - to discover their future and find their purpose.
“And there is the other kind of girl, who sees it as a very romantic thing. They think that they will become something else and become very famous and have a family and have everything they wish for.”
Of the estimated 600 British Muslims that have travelled to join ISIS, around 60 are thought to be young women. As women, we must join the fight against the online grooming of our children and loved ones. It falls on us to understand the dangers of the internet and to keep our children safe online. The internet is rife with extremists hunting for their next victim, so it is important that we identify the risks of online radicalisation and spot the signs early.
Keeping our children safe from online radicalisation is the first step towards winning this fight.
Keeping Your Children Safe From Online Radicalisation
One of the first ways for women to start protecting their children from the dangers of online radicalisation is to understand how the internet and social media work. By being able to use the internet, it will help you recognise the risks.
Another way is to restrict the material your children can access on the web. You can apply this to certain websites as well as social networks like Facebook. The four biggest internet providers in the UK – BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media - provide their customers with free parental controls which can be activated at any time.
Other approaches include regularly talking to your children about their online activities in a friendly way, gaining their trust and allowing them to express their interests and concerns so you can identify potential threats.
Our workshop teaches mothers the simple steps they can take to keep their children safe online. From explaining how social networks work, to showing how to restrict what your children see online and what to look out for if you think your child is being radicalised.
For more information about online grooming contact the NSPCC or ParentZone who offer support to parents to help spot the signs in order to prevent the online radicalisation of our children.
At WARN, our mission is to fight radicalisation through education, empowerment and engagement. Women have the power to educate future generations, inspire change and protect vulnerable people against the evils of radicalisation.