Grieving father urges new approach

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Published: Wednesday 29th October 2014 by The News Editor

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The Government’s strategy to deal with Britons who travel to war-torn Syria is “criminalising” young people and must be changed, the father of two teenagers killed in the fighting there has said.

Abubaker Deghayes, who said his 17-year-old son Jaffar was shot by President Bashar al-Assad’s forces near the city of Aleppo at the weekend and whose other son Abdullah, 18, was killed in Latakia province in April, made a direct plea to the Prime Minister and Home Secretary.

Mr Deghayes said he tried to bring his sons back home to Britain but was prevented from doing so.

Directing his words to David Cameron and Theresa May, he told Sky News: “You have stopped me from trying to go there to bring my sons back by keeping my passports for five or six months.

“If I wanted to join the fight in Syria, I could have done that. I have been to that country five or six times and stayed there carrying out aid work.”

Jaffar left his home near Brighton earlier this year in a bid to overthrow the Syrian dictator, while Abdullah left the UK in January to reportedly take up arms with Jabhat al-Nusra, an al-Qaida-affiliated group.

Their father, who said his grief at their deaths “cannot be described”, claimed many people who have gone to Syria are “youngsters who made a mistake and it should be dealt with like that”.

He urged the Government to re-think its tactics in dealing with those who travel there.

“The strategy you are using with our sons does not work,” he said. “You are criminalising them just out of the fear they might become a threat to this country.

“Do not push them to be radicalised, used by groups like Isis who are out for revenge and thirst for blood.

“You should have a strategy where we teach youngsters here in this country to work in relief work and to know and to experience how to help in a civilised manner.

“And also have an exit strategy for those who went there. They can’t come back without the fear of their own people, their own government.

“They should be treated like youngsters who made a mistake and it should be dealt with like that, not just sent to prison. The stick of the law does not work all the time.

“Mr Cameron, please revise your strategy and the Government’s strategy at this point. It’s very vital, it’s very important. We do not want to lose more youngsters.”

Jaffar and Abdullah’s brother Amer, 20 , who also travelled to Syria, relayed news of the most recent death to their father, who lives in Saltdean, East Sussex.

Mr Deghayes said Jaffar had died 15 minutes after being shot while part of a group of five “special force fighters”.

Speaking outside his home last night, Mr Deghayes, said he felt “great sadness, sorrow and pain”.

He said: “The grief for my sons Jaffar and Abdullah cannot be described. My words fail to describe it.

“I cried my eyes yesterday and I really hope and pray to God that Amer is safe and returns home safe to his homeland, Brighton, where he lived all his life.

“My message is still the same – all young Muslims … who think to go to Syria out of kindness, out of trying to make a difference, do not go. The Syrians do not need foot fighters.

“They need weapons, they need governments to help them, they need quality weapons to fight the aircrafts of Assad. You can help from here. Do not make this mistake.

“Please don’t let your families go through what we are going through.”

The Deghayes brothers are the nephews of Omar Deghayes, who was held by the United States as an enemy combatant at Guantanamo Bay detention camp between 2002 and 2007 after he was arrested in Pakistan.

Following the death of Abdullah earlier this year, counter-terrorism officers raided the Deghayes’ family home in May and seized material after a warrant was issued under the Terrorism Act 2000.

Counter-terrorism investigators have expressed concern about aspiring British jihadis travelling to Syria and becoming radicalised.

Four men from Portsmouth – Mehdi Hassan, 19, Iftekar Jaman, 23, Mamunur Roshid, 24, and Muhammad Hamidur Rahman, 25, have died fighting in Syria.

Sussex Police has urged anyone who has concerns or information about anyone locally planning to travel to Syria or Iraq to contact the force.

A Foreign Office spokesman said they are aware of reports of the death of a British national in Syria, adding that without representation there it is difficult to get confirmation of deaths or injuries.

Published: Wednesday 29th October 2014 by The News Editor

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