Three teenage girls from London went traipsing off to Syria to play house with IS last Tuesday. Sara Khan says it’s grooming, just as it’s grooming when teenage girls go into prostitution.
As the prime minister expressed deep concern over the disappearance of the three east London schoolgirls who are thought to be on their way to join Islamic State (Isis) fighters in Syria, the head of Inspire, a human rights organisation working with Muslim women, called on schools to do more to burst the “romanticised notion” of Isis that is being peddled to young people by a slick online propaganda machine.
The head of Inspire, Sara Khan, said the tactics used by those luring young girls to Syria and Iraq to marry them off to jihadis or force them into domestic servitude, were the grooming methods of paedophiles.
“We need to stop using the phrase ‘jihadi brides’,” she said. “This is grooming, a child safety issue, and we need to make that distinction. These are normal teenage girls who should be in school, with their families, and have sacrificed everything to run off and join this crazed group.”
Normal teenage girls are full of pubertal longings that they don’t know what to do with. It isn’t just sex – it’s more generalized than that. It’s adventure, escape, wider horizons – it makes them suckers for grooming.
Khan added: “They are getting all their info online where it’s so glorified and romantic. Like it’s all one big happy family out there. Well it isn’t. Parents need help and the most practical suggestion I can make is keep your daughter’s passport under lock and key.” Inspire launches a campaign on Monday called Making a Stand, to help parents cope with the Isis threat.
The three missing girls, Shamima Begum, 15, Kadiza Sultana, 16, and 15-year-old Amira Abase, all attend Bethnal Green academy where they are said to be top students.
They left the UK unchallenged on a lunchtime flight to Istanbul on Tuesday and security camera images of them at Gatwick airport were released on Thursday by police. Commander Richard Walton said there was still a chance the girls could be found and stopped from crossing into Syria, especially as snowstorms were affecting transport out of Istanbul.
It’s so pathetic. If they get there they’re in for such a horrible shock.
At the East London Mosque worshippers were shocked at the girls’ disappearance. Bil Hassan, 27, from Tower Hamlets, said: “You look at the pictures and they look like lovely girls. That’s the shocking element of it. These aren’t scary faces, theses are young girls. There are a lot of theories of why they went – grooming, love for Isis – but people are driven by a sense of adventure and that is part of it.”
Dr Zaza Elsheikh said: “They want a sense of belonging and seek excitement in the same way that people join gangs. They believe going to Syria is better than their lives here. They are small fish and they want something bigger.”
Exactly. I remember that want from when I was fifteen. I was lucky; I lived an hour by bus from New York so I could easily just run away from home for an afternoon and spend it noodling around Greenwich Village, doing nothing in particular. But Shamima and Kadiza and Amira were already in London, so I guess just running away to Chelsea or Bloomsbury or Oxford Street didn’t quite do the trick.