Destinations Magazine

French Jihadists: Self-service

By Stizzard

A STUDIOUS 15-year-old pupil from the south of France, Adèle enjoyed biology and dreamed of saving lives. But she led a double life. In one Facebook identity she was just a teenaged girl. In the other she was Oum Hawwa, chosen by Allah to help “brothers and sisters” in Syria. Early this year Adèle failed to come home, flew out of Marseille and made it to Syria. Her family says she is now a hostage of jihadists.Such stories have become more common as France, home to Europe’s biggest Muslim minority, struggles with the flow of would-be jihadists to Syria and Iraq. Bernard Cazeneuve, the interior minister, reckons 930 French citizens are either already there or trying to go. Another 36 have died fighting. Although on a per-head basis its jihadists are outnumbered by Belgian and Danish ones, France supplies the largest single contingent. Almost a fifth are female. Some entire families have gone.Most French jihadists are recruited through one of two routes, says Dounia Bouzar, author of “They Sought Paradise, They Found Hell”, a new book that traces the paths of those like Adèle. Young men, many of whom might have joined the police or the army and have “a tormented relationship with their virility” are, she says, seduced by the promise of a mission and a purpose free of Western lies. The appeal to young girls, by contrast, is often a humanitarian desire to help innocent children…


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