Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Amnesty for British Jihadists?

with 8 comments

Isis Justice.

On Sunday the Observer reported,

British jihadi fighters desperate to return home from Syria and Iraq are being issued with death threats by the leadership of Islamic State (Isis), the Observer has learned.

A source with extensive contacts among Syrian rebel groups said senior Isis figures were threatening Britons who were attempting to travel home. He said: “There are Britons who upon wanting to leave have been threatened with death, either directly or indirectly.”

It continued  with the claim from  former Guantánamo Bay detainee Moazzam Begg

Begg said that groups had approached him to try to put pressure on the government to show leniency to disillusioned fighters returning. Recently, the government suggested British jihadis who went to fight in Iraq or Syria could be tried for treason.

He said that a lot of Britons were currently “stuck between a rock and a hard place”. He added: “There are a large number of people out there who want to come back. The number in January was around 30, that was the number given to me. That number has definitely increased since.”

This comes as calls grow for an amnesty for British people who have gone to Syria to fight for the Islamists.

The Huffington Post said,

Britain should set up an amnesty for disillusioned and frightened British jihadis who want to come home, a senior diplomatic expert has said, as more reports emerged of “stranded” Brits desperate to leave Islamic State or other radical groups.

Up to 100 are believed to be currently stranded in Turkey, fleeing the horrors of the Islamic State’s rampage through Syria in Iraq. But most fear to return to Britain, according to Rachel Briggs, director of Hostage UK, which works with the families of victims kidnapped overseas.

Briggs told Huffington Post UK that the British government should “establish a clearing house near the Syrian border in Turkey to process and return home scared and disillusioned British jihadis”.


“In support of this effort, it should run an information campaign within Syria to inform British ISIS members of their return options,” she continued. “This does not mean letting criminals off the hook; those guilty of crimes must be prosecuted on their return.

Huffington Post

The article develops the theme,

Worried parents could be “de-facto negotiators” if helped more by the government, Briggs said, citing the case of Mehdi Hassan, 19 from Portsmouth, the latest British jihadi to be killed in Syria. His mother told the media after pictures of his body circulated on Twitter that the aspiring history student had been desperate to leave the Islamic State, despite his bombastic statements on social media.

“Mehdi was a loving boy with a good heart wishing to help Syrians,” the family said in a statement. “In recent months he had expressed the intention to return home but was worried about the repercussions. This is a tragedy and a lesson.”

These calls have drawn anger from right-wingers like Stephen Pollard.

In the Express today he rejects the idea saying that they deserve prosecution, “They are simply having to face the consequences of their actions. There’s a simply way for anyone to avoid prison for terrorism: don’t be a terrorist. And if you do become one but don’t like it: tough. You will pay for your actions.”

We can ignore this predictable outrage.

In the first instance, it is not a good idea to make policy, especially ones that involve the legal system, based on individual cases, particularly ones such as that of Hassan. The emotional charge is high, above all when claims have been made that he acted on his family’s report of wishes to leave the scene of mass murder.

Hasty measures taken to pick on suspected jihadists and efforts to impose what is in effect censorship and repression, and “counter-extremism” are not a good idea.

The fact is that there is an assault taking place in Kobani – where Hassan was killed – by the genocidal Isis against our Kurdish sisters and brothers .

A political campaign on the left to face up to the Islamists, and the political pool they have thriven in, expressing solidarity with those battling the jihadists , might have a deeper effects.

Campaigning against the murderous acts of the Syrian regime, not to mention wider Islamist (including Shiite) religious intolerance, would be part of such a move.,

This ia a long-term, long-haul, objective. 

In the meantime on the issue of amnesty, there does not seem much concern about those oppressed by Isis/Islamic State expressed by those advocating an amnesty – or by Pollard.

Racehl Briggs’s proposals are summarised in more detail by the following,

We need a more nuanced approach to deal with the different levels of threat. Arrest and prosecute those who have committed a crime and set an example of those guilty of the most heinous offences. Work proactively to bring back those who are scared and disillusioned, so they come back with us and on our terms. Turn the stories of returned foreign fighters into ammunition against ISIS. And offer those capable of reintegration the support they and their families need to get back on their feet and become productive members of society.

The issue of who has been a criminal is a hard one.

How exactly this should be determined, how they would be prosecuted  and how they can be distinguished from the “scared and disillusioned” is left unclear.

The example of ‘rehabilitation’ in some European countries are marginal, covering a handful of people.

More significantly the number of jihadists going from Europe including Britain, to kill in Syria has not notably decreased as news about the nature of Isis/Islamic State has become widely known.

Battling in a Holy War and murdering infidels does not seem attractive.

Some of these foreign fighters are reported to have participated in the worst atrocities.

Some cases are certain, as in the Western hostages tortured and murdered by the Islamists.

There is this in particular,

Mr Foley spent much of his time in captivity being guarded by three militants with British accents, whom the hostages nicknamed “The Beatles”. The group apparently took pleasure in abusing their captives, telling them they had been “naughty”. For a time, Mr Foley and others were held in a basement beneath a children’s hospital in Aleppo, before their captors joined up with Isis and moved their hostages to Raqqa, Syria, the capital of the self-proclaimed Islamic State, as Isis calls itself.


An International War Crimes Tribunal is perhaps the best way of dealing with those who have committed atrocities in the Syrian and Iraqi conflicts.

In the meantime there is no reason for any special pleading on behalf of “young enthusiasts” who join groups that commit acts of torture and genocide.

Perhaps much more significant in this media discussion is the underlying idea that somehow “British” jihadists should get special treatment.

This might be described as the “Western saviour complex”, except that those being saved are “our” (repentant)  jihadis.

Assed Baig, the ‘controversial’ journalist who uses such phrases freely, and who received a window on Channel Four last night to air his opinion that Muslims in Britain are uniquely excluded and their religion and beliefs patronised and oppressed, would no doubt be opposed to any such favours from the Colonial British State.




8 Responses

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  1. In view of what ISIS have been doing, and have been known for many months to have been doing, I have zero sympathy with British jihadis seeking a way out. Realistically there is no chance of prosecuting most of them for their crimes against humanity. By refusing to allow them to leave, ISIS are actually doing decent people a favour. The more British jihadis killed in theatre by Kurdish bullets or allied bombs the better.


    October 29, 2014 at 2:28 pm

  2. I can’t say I shed any tears for them, above all those who participate in the murder-rape-and-torture JIhadist gangs, but I am trying to outline a reasonable position that is not too partisan.

    I have scant sympathy whatsoever for this, and for the papers that publicise this reaction, “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.”

    “”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.”

    Grieving father urges new approach: http://www.portsmouth.co.uk/news/national/grieving-father-urges-new-approach-1-6384225

    Andrew Coates

    October 29, 2014 at 4:39 pm

  3. Or indeed this, Returning Jihadis aren’t so bad, I used to be one.

    “Community figures like myself are contacted by members of the public and asked what they can, or should, do to help the oppressed Muslims in Syria. This question has been around long before the UK government suddenly announced the criminalisation of those going to fight there. My own views on who should fight and where have changed as the situation demands. I do not now think British Muslims should go and fight in Syria or anywhere else for that matter.”


    Andrew Coates

    October 29, 2014 at 4:50 pm

  4. Do we allow them to bring their collections of heads back with them? They made their jihadi bed so let them rot in it


    October 29, 2014 at 5:08 pm

  5. […] Source: Amnesty for British Jihadists? […]

  6. “Campaigning against the murderous acts of the Syrian regime…” Realistically, who else, apart from the forces of the Assad regime, could possibly be capable of reestablishing any kind of order in Syria? There is no possible liberal, democratic outcome to conflicts like the Syrian one. The sooner we abandon that stupid hubristic western fantasy the better. The choice is between various factions of men with guns. If Kurdish men with guns can carve out a Kurdish statelet, well good luck to them. But for the rest of Syria, the choice is between factions of armed Sunni sectarians, or the nominally secular Syrian state. It’s tempting to say “a plague on all your houses”, but if the choice is between Assad or the jihadis, perhaps Assad may turn out to be the lesser evil?


    October 30, 2014 at 10:30 am

  7. I am arguing from a legal and ethical point of view Francis.

    Apart from that I agree with your points!

    Andrew Coates

    October 30, 2014 at 12:14 pm

  8. Ah – I gave up arguing ethically years ago. The feeling of liberation was exhilarating… 😉


    October 30, 2014 at 12:45 pm

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