EVENT TRANSCRIPT: Women’s Voices in Extremism
DATE: 1:00pm-2:00pm, Monday 25th February 2019
VENUE: Committee Room 2A, House of Commons, Westminster
SPEAKERS: Nikita Malik, Dr. Kimberley Mehlman-Orozco, Dr. Saima Lofgren, Abigail Clay
EVENT CHAIR: Baroness Mary Goudie
Baroness Goudie: ‘So although we’re a few minutes to one o’clock I think we should start because we’ve got a good audience, all the speakers are here and we have tro give the room back up at 5 to 2 for the next booking at 2 o’clock. My name is Baroness Mary Goudie, a member of the House of Lords and I’ve been invited by The Henry Jackson Society to chair this meeting this morning. I’m particularly interested in the issue as I work with women and men together on empowerment, women at the peace table and a whole lot of issues around that. We could not be meeting together at a more important time – well every day’s important but this issue has blown up in the newspapers. We have four speakers today and I’m going to invite the speakers to speak for about 10 minutes or less each and then we’ll throw the meeting open for discussion, not for comments but for questions so we have a back and forth discussion around the room. And the line-up is Nikita, who’s going to speak first and then Saima and then Abigail and then Kimberley so if we’d like to start off.’
Nikita Malik: ‘Sure. Just to check everyone can hear me all right, it’s a small room so hopefully my voice can project enough. So just by way of introduction, my name is Nikita Malik, I am the Director of the Centre on Radicalisation and Terrorism at The Henry Jackson Society. So why are we having this event today? Of course, the recent events – we’ve all been following Shamina Begum’s case and the case of other women from the Islamic State who now want to come back to Western countries. But this event was actually planned by The Henry Jackson Society before all of this happened, as you now it was advertised before all this happened and we were so honoured when we could have an amazing line up of women. And the title of this was purposely very broad – ‘Women’s Voices in Extremism’, women’s voices in countering extremism but also what role do women play in extremist movements. So where I come from, besides my own role as the Director of the Centre at HJS, my own personal research into this has focused very much on this idea. And I’ve looked into this in three separate reports which function almost as books in themselves. The first was something I published in 2015 which was on Islamic State’s propaganda released specifically for women.
So Islamic State was the first terrorist organisation to do this, in their Dabiq magazine they were publishing a specific column called ‘For Our Sisters’ which was written by a woman – supposedly a woman – it could very well have been a man, specifically tailored towards Western women and it was written in the English language. Of course, they had also published a number of propaganda pieces in Arabic which for their Middle Eastern audience and that actually differed very much from the English propaganda. That was very instructional in nature, it was very much what women were and weren’t allowed to do whereas the English propaganda was almost poetic in nature, the role that women would play in this caliphate and how important they would be if they came to join.
So that then takes me to the second report I published which was on ‘Children of the Islamic State’, because the primary role of women was to create children, create this next generation of boys who would be soldiers and girls who would be the wives of these fighters. And then when I joined the Henry Jackson Society I published a report on the Yazidi women, how they were being trafficked by the Islamic State, the propaganda that was written to justify their enslavement and how the UN had at the time come out with a specific treaty on terrorism and trafficking as a tactic of terrorists. So that brings me to the broader question of today which is women in these movements; are they victims or are they agents?
There’s been a lot of talk in the media over the last few weeks, about Shamina Begum for example being a victim. And I found myself on both sides of the debate. I personally don’t think she is a victim because of the research I’ve done – but the argument about upholding rights for individuals and making sure they’re brought to justice for their victims and on the other hand, seeing people on the other side of the debate pointing out that she is a child and she lacks agency in the matter, so debating both sides of the matter really. The thing that I find very interesting when we talk about women in extremist movements or in gangs is really the media portrayal of them. So I’m sure you’re all very familiar with the moniker ‘jihadi bride’ which is now being used again in the media. And it really reduces the role of women to just joining these groups because they wanted to marry and individual. In cases we’ve seen that is definitely a pull factor but in other cases we’ve seen women as direct perpetrators of violence. Even in the Islamic State there was the Al-Hansa female policing brigade which was part of policing other women. Are they helping their husbands? Goading them to join and be more violent? What, in terms of Yazidi women – they often serve as a substitute for monetary payments so a lot of the propaganda released by these terrorist movements would say is if we can’t pay you more we’ll give you a second wife or a sex slave so in this way women were actually serving in another way when monetary payments could not be made. So I think this opens up a lot of very interesting questions about the role of women in terrorist organisations which is nothing new because women have participated in criminal and gang networks, they’ve participated in previous terrorist organisations but it’s all been brought to the fore now because of one particular case. So that just really open up a number of things to be discussed and we’re very privileged today to be joined by many women who are leading in their fields, so I will now pass on to Sima.’
Baroness Goudie: ‘And Saima, say a little bit about yourself please.’
Saima Lofgren: ‘Okay, so I’m really pleased to be here. My name’s Saima Lofgren and I’m a clinical psychologist based in adult mental health care in Nottingham and part of my role is working with refugees and asylum seekers. And then I also work as what they call an ‘intervention provider’ for the Prevent strategy, so I work one-to-one with people at risk of radicalisation. So I was really pleased to be asked to take part in today’s discussion, though I must say it’s the shortest brief I have ever been given. So Viktorija said to aim for about 8 minutes and as a psychologist I’m used to the therapeutic hour and you know really able to meander along and take my time to get to the point. So, it’s a real skill if I manage to stick to the 8 minutes – but I’m going to do my best and what I decided to do was, I have four points and clock so I’m going to aim for two minutes per point. So my first point is a reflection really.
I’ve worked with about 20 or so women and girls who’ve attempted to go to Syria and then they’ve been detained and brought back here. And there’s one particular case that stands out. It’s the case of the youngest person I’ve worked with – she was about 12-years-old and her mother had attempted to take her and her siblings to Syria and they got quite far before they were detained and sent back. And the remit of my work was to look at her adjustment back here – her mum was sent to prison so it was living life without mum, but there was also that element of risk and safeguarding, thinking about how much influence mum had had on this girl. Now what I found in my one-to-one work with her was that the biggest influence on her adjustment and development of her worldview here was her concern for the support her mum was getting. So she would repeatedly ask, is my mum getting some place where she can talk? Is someone willing to listen to my mum and engage with my mum? So whereas all of us from a professional background had been noticing signs of risk and concern with mum, this young girl had picked up on the more negative qualities of withdrawal and the depressive type qualities that her mum was showing and she really wanted some therapeutic support for her. And that was really important to set up in order for this girl to adjust with me. And now as Shamina Begum’s case came to light in the media this case came to mind and I wondered how well would this girl be adjusting had I dione that work now seeing how the public have responded to this woman who has lots of similarities with her mum? And it just alerted me to the thought that it’s not just the person themselves that we’re dealing with but actually how that ripples out and affects other people. Some people have argued that it can fuel extremism on both sides but there’s a personal and human story there about immediate family members and the community and their sense of identity and development.
And so going from an individual reflection on that one-to-one case I reflected a bit more broadly on the cases I’ve worked with these women and girls. You know I think not just myself, but all the professionals around these girls work really hard to support them, to listen to them and try to help them to turn their lives around and try to understand what led them down the root they took. And you know, it’s really hard for me to believe that that therapeutic work and that sense-making wouldn’t be worthwhile had these women actually made it to Syria and then were sat in front of me. So for me that feels really important. And when I think about going on, whoever I will next see I feel like in order tio do the work I do I really need to de-anchor myself from the status quo or the public response and demand and need for this person to demonstrate something, that she needs to give some kind of virtue signal that will then allow us to engage with her. I feel I need to park that because as a psychologist thankfully, we’re open to engage with people regardless of the views and the positions they hold and we’re always optimistic, so we’re really full of hope in the work we do.
So my third point was just something to note and it seemed really counterintuitive to me and I don’t have an answer to this and it’s just something to note that in most of the case I’ve worked with and particularly the young people – the 15 and 16-year-old girls, what I generally find is that the idea of getting married and having three children at that age is something that they want to escape. Actually, they’re trying to rebel against this expectation that they must settle down and have families quite young and so it seems a bit odd that this girl has travelled somewhere else and has been willing to take that up and so that is something for me to think about. Why might that be? Why might she have made this choice somewhere else? And I think for me it’s not just the action she takes but what this represents for her that might be the key in understanding that. So my goal in one-to-one work with her would not be to think about her lack of Islamic knowledge or her lack of critical thinking in accepting a certain ideological interpretation and the evidence but focusing more on incentives and motivation, like what does this choice represent for her? And you know, I don’t have time to go into that today but I think I’m in a good position to make some kind of hypothetical formulation of it given the work I’ve done. And I think that to get married here as a young, Asian woman and to have three children, it gives you a pretty invisible identity, it’s pretty negligible. You know you’re not going to be noticed or do very much. But to do it in Syria and become part of IS is pretty powerful and it has a big impact and it gives you a much stronger, more concrete identity and one that you don’t have to really make sense of or question. You know you’ll get the fruits of your very limited labour quite quickly. So for me then, it’s not the strength of the ideology that might be important but what that represents and what somebody’s motivation in achieving an outcome that has a big impact for themselves.
So my final point is again a bit of a reflection and a bit of a psychological understanding I guess that I think that we’re really hooked on wanting Shamina Begum to demonstrate that she’s changed her mind somehow and that everything seems to hinge on this. I mentioned before that she needs to signal her virtue to us somehow and I think we are in a tricky position. She’s asking to come home but then she’s saying things that are at odds with that and making it really difficult for us to go along with that. But I think as a psychologist this discrepancy and this trickiness is something I’m very much at ease with because in most cases therapy clients turn up at therapy and say ‘I want to change, I have this problem and I want to do something about it’ and then they give you every single signal to resist any interpretation or intervention you offer. And the work actually becomes working in that grey, kind of tricky space so I’m totally at ease with that and I really think ambivalence is not unusual. I’m not sure it’s fair to expect that not to be there and it’s definitely not dangerous. And you know, listening to her interviews in preparation to coming here, as a psychologist I did sort of think what creates this commitment to past beliefs that we really want her to abandon. And I thought about research on consistency effects and I thought that if we take a position very publicly we stake out our position we end up feeling that we need to protect that and standby that regardless in order to show that we can be trusted and that we are consistent. So there are research studies where you can pay someone to take a particular position on any subject and later you revaluate their values and you find that they stand by that position, regardless of their original rationale for having committed to it. So I feel like we need to resist this temptation to put a pin in what she’s saying and also research on people who leave cults tell us that it’s not all black and white. There’s not this disengagement process and there’s space there to work with someone and whether we call it deradicalisation or we call it sense-making, understanding the narrative journey that’s led someone to where they are this only happens where there’s a cognitive opening. And for that to happen, for something to drop to give someone the idea that there might be a different position on this you need some space for personal reflection. And I’m really proud to say that I think any other psychologist in my position would be more happy than to sit opposite her and do that work, to give her that opportunity. So who knows how many minutes that was but it feels like it was about 8 minutes. Thank you very much.’
Baroness Goudie: ‘It was perfect, very enlightening. So we’ve had two interesting speakers and we’re going to hear from our other two’
Abigail Clay: ‘Thank you. Hello and thank you very much for inviting me, I seem to be following on seamlessly. Okay so my experience is focused on safeguarding children, supporting schools with understanding and compliance with the Prevent duty. I’ve been involved with the Prevent duty since its inception from an educational perspective and I’m going to draw on my own experiences which include identification of children being taken to Syria as well as supporting children who are going through the judicial process under terrorism laws and also with my European colleagues from an organisation known as the Radicalisation Awareness Network which is part of the Migration Home Affairs Directorate and that’s a network of practitioners, policymakers and academics who share their practice and peer review practice.
So I want to take this time really to share my thoughts from a trauma-informed child awareness perspective and introduce a concept of cultic abuse to describe the experiences of children recruited to and living in extreme environments. I begin with Shamina Begum as a live example and to remind ourselves she was a child when she travelled to Syria, this is undisputed in UK law. The concept that she was an older child or nearly an adult, under UK law you are a child up to your 18th Birthday. There is a further discussion as to whether she was effectively safeguarded prior to departure and that is not at all to apportion responsibility to anybody, it is just a question. I would argue she was deceptively recruited I think which is more reflective of the process of radicalisation that she experienced. She was married after only three weeks so presumably she was still 15 at the time and she’s had three children over three-and-a-half to four years so the timeline would suggest she was fairly consistently pregnant or nursing small children, even though she tragically lost two of those children in infancy. The factors here that on their own under any situation would provide evidence of trauma, of being recruited and going to live in an oppressive, hostile environment, being quickly married, pregnant, experiencing loss. Alongside these personal experiences, the environment which Shamina lived in was undoubtedly traumatic, including witnessing violence, hearing extreme ideology from what we understand is one source which was her husband who we know was an extremist fighter. And we know that the experiences of children raised in extremist environments, children with adverse childhood experiences (ACE) is likely to have a significant impact on their perception of, and involvement in the world that surrounds them. Shamina must be recognised as a child up to at least her 18th Birthday and as such she was a child being raised in an extremist and hostile environment. Our response should be mindful of this. A recent network meeting focused on this issue and the findings supported that the recognition of trauma was an important step to recovery and rehabilitation.
There’s a well-accepted ‘survival mode’ which occurs following trauma and im not a psychologist but this makes it extremely difficult to engage rationaslly so perhaps Shamina’s responses that we’ve heard are as a response to the experiences that she’s had. And trauma can leave children more likely to misinterpret conversations and information. And Anthony Lloyd in his interview with Shamina described this really well and he said the she spoke in the same precise and predictable manner of any other indoctrinated member of IS, which to me supports that notion of the trauma that shes experienced. And obviously that would be potentially very dangerous for her to contradict the IS rhetoric and she’s unlikely to have the capability for individual thought. So for me Shamina’s case is consistent with the case of children being raised in other extremist environments, religious cults, abusive households as well as other terrorist organisations. The International Cultic Association proposes the definition of ‘cultic behaviour’ to be ‘an ideological organisation which is held together by charismatic relationships and demanding total commitment. Cults will exert considerable influence, stemming from an ideology and the expectations of the group members are high with severe penalties if these demands are not met’. Ashley Allen, who was raised in a religious cult and speaks internationally as a survivor and has informed practice and spoke at one of our network meetings about the effective interventions necessary to recover from the experience of being in a cult. And Ashley pledges that the structure of such environments is conducive to abuse for many reasons including the lack of access to opportunities for identification so there’s schools, friends, professionals who may be able to identify these issues of abuse and obviously the discourse within the groups is very insular with great mistrust of the outside world. This sort of insular and hostile environment enables abuse to be perpetrated easily and without very much hindrance from the outside world. And we know from recent child sexual exploitation cases that the victims were not, as we were initially told, making lifestyle choices. And that was from a judge who suggested the girls were making ‘lifestyle choices’ and we now know that they were from the outset being groomed for sexual exploitation. In my work with victims of CSE, even at the point of police support and agreeing to go through a prosecution, the girls would still maintain that they consented initially to a relationship which then became abusive. But the concept that they were in fact being groomed and coerced by messages and promises from the outset and being controlled by a well-rehearsed method was very, very difficult for them to accept. So we must be clear as professionals that, in spite of a victim’s reticence to accept that they were not in control or consenting that they were in fact victims of an abusive process. And it may seem that though CSE, cults and terrorist groups do not share many similarities, the abusive methods used to hold people within that environment are indeed very similar.
One aspect of my professional practice is monthly inspections of a children’s home and I then report then to Ofsted. And this home provides trauma-informed care and I have seen the transformative outcomes to the lives of children whose experience of abuse and neglect are obviously horrendous. And such experiences within a hostile home environment require a significant amount of therapeutic care which can enable children to understand options which, until then, haven’t seemed open to them. And those includes values and opportunities which are also captured within our British values which underpin the Prevent duty, particularly individual liberty and obviously the rights for children to live free of harm. The expected behaviours of victims of abuse and neglect, and those living in terrorist environments may differ, particularly in relation to acts of violence but the methods of control and compliance resulting from the deceptive recruitment and trauma are very similar. A colleague and friend of mine who was a foreign fighter in the 70s describes cultic abuse as an ideology used alongside psychological manipulation without the knowledge or consent of the victim, which is also known as brainwashing in order to effect a breach in a person’s psychological, emotional and social integrity for the purpose of abuse, exploitation and slavery and in doing so makes a victim unaware of their own predicament so that they can act in ways to harm themselves or others. And this method of isolation, engulfing and indoctrination is common to all types of abuse that I’ve described. Therefore cultic abuse, I think is useful to describe the process and experiences of these children. So I just want to suggest that the experiences of these children does involve cultic abuse but from my experience working with these children, recovery is possible with input from appropriate professionals. And I just want to leave you with one example from, Vienna where in 2016 two families with eight children were returned from Syria which was a first occurrence in Austria. And they had a multi-agency, well-coordinated, child-focused approach that a successful repatriation with the parents being arrested and the children being put into foster care, the judicial process worked through with significant sentences being given to the parents and the children have been professionally supported. And as far as I’m aware, as of last week they were all thriving.
So the role of children in extremism, for me, is as victims of cultic abuse. The notion of older children and young women as enablers is, I would suggest is the result of the successful manipulation and abuse of the recruiters and terrorist leaders rather than the result of consensual and independent thoughts and actions.’
Baroness Goudie: ‘Thank you so much, that’s so interesting. Now Kimberley who’s come from Washington today.’
Kimberley Mehlman-Orozco: ‘So my talk’s going to be a little different because although I have a PhD in Criminology, I am not a counterterrorism scholar. I’m not. My expertise is actually in human trafficking. Over the last ten years I’ve conducted thousands of interviews with convicted human traffickers, commercial sex consumers, consenting sex workers as well as victims of sex trafficking. My first book is used to train law enforcement across the United States, and even in Canada in how to identify human sex trafficking, which the title of my book is ‘Hidden in Plain Sight’. I also serve as an expert witness in human trafficking cases. The reason why I work as an expert witness is because when a lot of people think of human trafficking they think of the movie ‘Taken’. So you have the clearly innocent victim who’s taken by gun-wielding Albanian mobsters and you have her dad coming to rescue her. So kind of like the good vs evil, very clear-cut. But that’s not how human trafficking happens.
The reality is that it happens through coercion, deception, fraud, threat for the purpose of exploitation and that is the definition adopted not only in the United States but also the United Nations. What is human trafficking? It’s the use of force, fraud, coercion, deception for the purpose of exploitation, or the exploitation of anyone under the age of eighteen. So, why am I here to talk about extremism you might ask?
Well the story starts seven years earlier, before today. I was teaching at a top-ranked university and a student came to me and long-story short she tells me that her brother had been convicted and was serving a sentence for providing material support to terrorists. My jaw dropped, I didn’t know how to respond and this student was literally crying because her dreams of becoming an FBI agent had been shattered because her direct relative had been recruited into extremism. And it was just shocking to me so I started to look into his narrative, who he was, how this child, this student’s brother had been recruited. And I saw it was months of grooming, of deception. And for me, I saw a lot of the tactics that he used which were used by human traffickers.
So how does a human trafficker recruit a victim. The way that I propose is actually based on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. They look and they see what void does that person have and I’m going to make a false promise to fill that void. So if it’s a child who’s living on the street homeless as in one of the cases in my book – it was a 12-year-old girl living on the streets of New York, her mother was addicted to drugs, they’re going to say I’ll provide you with food, shelter, that very base level of needs. Or safety if they’re being abused at home. Or love and belonging as in the case of ‘jihadi jane’, Colleen LaRose or belonging in the case of Richard Reid, the shoe-bomber. On the next level is self-esteem, building up your self-esteem if you have low-self-esteem, or even self-actualization, you are going to fulfil this greater purpose by doing something in the name of religion. All of that is a façade. And that’s why I named my book in a paradoxical fashion – ‘the jihadi next door’. Jihad is a religious term; it is a struggle. Someone who is struggling is at high-risk of being recruited by extremists, just as someone who is struggling is at high risk of being recruited by human traffickers. And so I really feel my talk go seamlessly with yours because when I see someone being recruited by a human trafficker I have seen case after case where they see themselves as consenting participants, even if they’re recruited by MS-13, one of the toughest gangs in the United States. They’ll say ‘yes, I wanted to be there’, because of how much manipulation they go through, because of the trauma-bond they form with their recruiter. So you’re talking about trauma-informed therapy, I truly believe. I talk about how ISIS is forcing, defrauding and coercing your neighbour into terrorism. That’s how they recruit people. And I argue in the book that believing, when a terrorist says ‘I’m doing this for Islam’, believing that is like believing a sex trafficker is recruiting someone in the name of love. I can’t tell you how many sex traffickers I’ve interviewed who have said ‘I loved my victims’. I’ve interviewed them and I provide block quotes in my first book where they say ‘I’m the father that she never had, or I’m the big brother that she misses or the boyfriend from back in the day’. That’s a verbatim quote from a convicted sex trafficker serving life in prison for trafficking that 12-year-old girl I mentioned earlier. They deceive, they defraud, they coerce and they exploit.
So I argue, in my most recent book that terrorist organisations are really like any other criminal organisation – they’re looking for money and power and they don’t care who they exploit to get it. So the same population that’s at risk from a human trafficker, they’re at risk, I argue for being recruited by a gang or an extremist organisation. So what do we do? How do we combat that? I argue that we look for preventative measures to make sure that we’re addressing these voids, these needs inn marginalized population. And, when the opportunity presents itself, show how humanitarian we can be when people finally come to the light. But I’m not in the business of doing what a human trafficker wants me to do, I’m not in the business of doing what a terrorist wants me to do. They want me to say ‘you’re not allowed to come back in this country’. They want me to say ‘you are a jihadi, you are murderer, you are doing something for a religion’. They are not. They are criminals. They are deceiving, they are defrauding, they’re coercing, they’re manipulating and exploiting and I think we need to put our best foot forward. I think that’s it’.
Baroness Goudie: ‘Thank you so much. Having done quite a lot with human trafficking victims it’s absolutely true and one of the problems with human trafficking is that women are the middle management and people trust women. And in the same way of what you’ve been saying – its men and women – but women in particular are very much part, unfortunately, of this terrible situation. We also took evidence in the sexual violence in conflict select committee from the Yazidi women and it was heart-breaking. And we did it in a room, not in this form, we managed to get a dispensation of the roles so that they could sit around and talk to us and after two hours of taking evidence, it was really very distressing. So let’s open up the meeting to so we’ll have two questions and then answers and so on. So who would like to go first? Could you name where you come from as well.’
Question 1: ‘Hi, I’m Talia and I study Intelligence and International Security at King’s College London. What I was wondering was what do you think the role of gender is in radicalisation. So I study a module on homegrown terrorism and one of the things we are looking at is this whole debate about how a lot of the time the media do paint women as victims and do they have grievances. So do you see a different radicalisation process for men and women?’
Question 2: ‘I’m just wondering who finances all this rehabilitation. So for example in the state, I’m not sure if you yourself are involved in that rehabilitation but who finances it?’
Baroness Goudie: ‘Governments basically. So who’d like to kick of first in answering the questions?’
Nikita Malik: ‘Sure, so I can give an attempt to answer your question on gender and radicalisation, though I’ve got to say if I knew the answer I’d be teaching the course at King’s College, I wouldn’t be giving my opinion. Well I think you can look at it, well the way I try to look at it is as in terms of ‘push’ factors and ‘pull’ factors. So I come from a bit of a different approach which is precisely why having round table like this is so important, my opinions are a bit different but the pull factors are things like the propaganda that I was mentioning at the beginning of this talk. There’s specific propaganda aimed at women. They make very clear that you won’t be coming here to become a fighter, you are coming to be part of a very difficult life, you are coming to be part of the caliphate. There’s also a bit of an incentive too in terms of violence, you can police other women as a pull factor. And then there’s the puch factor. I’m nowhere close to the level that Samia is, I’ve just looked at a few court cases but I do agree that there are elements there that don’t really couple up with what we have of opportunity in the UK and British values. You know you have a lot of girls here in the UK, young ones who are independently doing research online and that they might be able to find a person there that they can marry. In two of these cases it turned out from the court documents that the person didn’t exist, these women had just made this imaginary husband up. But they were very much doing it with the idea that they were going to get married. And that opens up a number questions surrounding what is happening in the home. Is violence normalised, as with these cases, the parents are separated, these domestic abuse happening?
Having said that, I think the idea that these women are pure victims doesn’t reconcile…again I’m not an expert in psychology or rehabilitation but just looking at what they do when they get there, the policing other women, the blind eye to the crimes that are committed against the Yazidi girls, there’s a German girl for example, I think her name’s Jennifer W for example who let a Yazidi girl of five die because she was just left out in the sun as punishment and she starved to death. And it’s incredibly difficult and I think going to stop soon but I think this will be the great debate for us when we talk about women returning from Islamic State. For men it will be relatively easier, they will have been on the battlefield and many of them will have died. They’ll have died in a drone strike, or in conflict but women, they’ll come back and with the women and Shamina, irrespective of…I think she has gone through trauma, we can talk about that. But she has practiced lines against the media, you have no evidence against me, what evidence will you hold against this person so I think that’s pretty important.’
‘So in my book I actually separate it into two different sections where I talk about some anecdotes of the different ways in which women are recruited and compare that to when men are recruited. So just really quickly, I haven’t found any cases where men were recruited by love interest but quite frankly that happens mostly with females. For example, Colleen LaRose, Sally Jones were recruited by love interests whereas men tend to be seeking belonging. I also float the idea of the ‘male warrior hypothesis’ in which they’re just looking to fight or have an ‘in-group vs out-group’ conflict. So I present it in two completely different sections and just say they have two different kind of voids in their life and as such the recruiter kind of reads that. I think in the question of who funds it, I think that’s a million-dollar question. With regards to human trafficking, even in terms of human trafficking there are a dearth of resources to provide the intense trauma-informed therapy that’s needed as well as residential placement and other things so I think the same sort of issues would apply to people being radicalised. But I think maybe I’ll allow you to answer a little more.
Baroness Goudie: ‘I would somewhat like the other two panellists to get to other questions in but I would just like to say that some of the rehabilitation is paid for by governments because there’s no other way to do that. Could we have another two questions that we can ask the other two pannelists?
Abigail Clay: ‘Can I just ask, I’d like to ask the students who are in, in response to the gender. What I’d love you to do is to some research into the public’s response to gender, so do we respond differently to Shamina Begum, so id you could do your PhD on that, that’d be marvellous, thank you’.
Baroness Goudie: ‘So can we have another two questions so the other pannelists can get a chance to speak. Lady at the back there?’
Question 3: ‘Hi, my names Natasha. I’m a member of Henry Jackson and also a student of UCL. I’m curious about the whole deradicalisation process, I follow Nikita’s work quite thoroughly actually and I’ve read a lot of her reports. My interest is that I totally understand the concept about women sort of being groomed and their sort of vulnerabilities education and family wise. My concern is that once a person has gone past the legal age, they’re over 18 and they have the freedom then to return to the UK but they choose not to. We obviously have those things in place where they’ve been brainwashed but in terms of ethics of counterterrorism, if we are looking at one person who has been traumatised as a result of war that has gone there from whatever the conditions may be, to 100,000 people that may be resulting in that situation, are we willing to take that risk? What would you do to deradicalise that person quickly enough so that we won’t be left in a risky situation?’
Question 4: ‘I’m Faiza Mirza from Voice of Islam Radio. I just wanted to know the opinion on children of women coming back, especially from a clinical point of view, the impact?
Baronness Goudie: ‘I’ll just take these two questions here, just in the front. Gentleman and then lady in black so we can then answer the four questions.’
Question 5: ‘Hi, I’m a War Studies and History undergraduate at King’s College London. I was just wondering what the panel thought about the barrier to the idea of bringing people back to Britain, that is the general conservative view of society because if you look at the sky data poll that was done was Sajid Javid revoked Shamina’s citizenship, about 78% of society supported that decision so I’m just wondering whether although it may be the moral thing to do to take people back and help them change their lives again, how can that realistically be done when the vast majority of society would be against such a decision?’
Question 6: ‘Hi, I’m doing the same MA as Talia at King’s College. I was just wondering what the panel thought was the best way to challenge this narrativwe of Islamic extremsits who are women and how they’re dealt with in the media, how we can sort of best tackle that victimhood narrative.’
Saima Lofgren: ‘So there was something about risk and deradicalising quickly, I think. So I think I struggled a bit to engage with the question really because this idea of needing to ‘quickly’ deradicalise that dsidsn;’t really make sense to me. So as a psychologist, when you start a piece of work, no matter what the remits of the work, we don’t have this urgency about it. It’s quite rare that we would be feeling somebody needs to be rehabilitated very quickly for whatever outcome or purpose so yeah, I’m really sorry I didn’t follow the question very well there so sorry. And then there was something about the children who are brought back.
So having worked with a child of someone. I think as I alluded to, in terms of their psychological growth I think it has a huge impact in terms of how their parents are responded to and what I guess the national discourse around that is. And as you were saying theres no reason to think children cant adjust and flourish and develop but I think for me what was helpful was as a government worker that I was able to offer something beyond just psychological therapy in terms of recognising that their mopther was caught up in radicalisation. So I think acknowledging that and for that to be part of the work that’s undertaken, so I think Prevent very much sits in safeguarding and I think that’s a good idea that we’re clued up about that
Baroness Goudie: ‘And Abigail?’
Abigail Caly: ‘Ok so the children of returnees definitely have a trauma-informed response and that’s been demonstrated throughout the new year. Obviously this is still quite a new phenomenon and obviously we’re still working but these approaches have been demonstrated to be successful, that its an emerging issue and we’re just trying to get better asnd better. In terms of the barriers to bring people back. A: I think trail by twittere should be avoided at all costs, this inflammatory rhetoric which was directed towards one returnee who didn’t benefit from a PR person stood by them, she was in the late stages of pregnancy, it’s not the best time to promote yourself. For me, and I think somebody else said it already, I think there should be some visible humanity here and our responses should be humane first, well hopefully legal first but hopefully being humane as well and I think the gender issue around tackling the issue of victimhood is more about our perceptions and the rhetoric surrounding that so you know like ‘women killers’. Men we sort of dislike them but there is a gender imbalance in our perceptions and I think the media could do an awful lot to rebalance that.
Kimberey Mehlman-Orozco: ‘So I was going to answer the children question because I think that’s very interesting question, especially given my background because I think one of the types of human trafficking that is internationally recognised is child soldiers. And often we sort of gloss over that fact when we’re talking about children who are 14, 15 or even younger, they cannot consent to become an extremist. You’re looking at the definition of trafficking. You cannot consent to be a sex worker, you cannot consent to being a trafficking victim, you are in need of trauma-informed therapy, you are de facto a trafficking victim until you become 18 and I think that’s the challenge. When do you stop being a victim and become an offender. And that’s something that we struggle with in the United States as well because we do see victims of trafficking often facilitate the victimization of other people and recruit other people so is that when they cross that bridge. I don’t think there’s a clear answer but I think it’s an important conversation to be had.
And regarding your question about how to change the public opinion because so many people were in support of Shamina Begum losing her citizenship, I think one of the things that I try to do in the book…and the mother of an ISSI fighter who was killed in Syria, his mother read the book, she gave a great review and said you provided a humanitarian face on who these people were before they were recruited, how they were recruited, what kind of mental illness did they suffer from, who they were as people and what was the missed opportunity to prevent radicalisation. It’s one of the things which I think needs to be done which is missing in the public discourse.
Baroness Goudie: ‘If I take just two or three more questions because it’s just after quarter to two? So lady in the front and then the two in the back. So just ask the question, not too much dialogue please.’
Question 6: ‘I just wanted to ask, you mentioned about love and marriages that women are escaping what they’re trying to find over there. Do you think that’s quite an eye-opener about our view of feminism over here and especially women who are in a disadvantaged background…feminism, well not even feminism but just the idea of women’s rights are inaccessible them and that’s actually something that as a government or any sort of preventative measure, we need to target it specifically towards rights of women and make it clear that over there they’re not much better? And over here we need to sort this out first before we even allow the idea be entertained that over there it might be better?’
Question 7: ‘So I would just like people here to imagine that Shamina Begum was a 19-year-old male and that she had a newborn child. What different public perception would there be? Because I know a lot of public perception is mixed but theres a lot of discussion about victimhood and trauma. Would be using the same descriptions and the same narrative if she was male because I suspect we wouldn’t. How does that fit with our supposed approach to equality and feminism in this country?’
Question 8: ‘Hi my name’s (inaudible) and I study psychology. I was wondering as no one touched on the topic of Islam and what role religion can play in terms of prevention of recruitment here in the UK. I’m from Germany and the argument is always that actually mosques, some of them are radicalised becsaue they’re sponsored by certain governments. So I just wanted to ask about this here in the UK?’
Question 9: ‘Yes, I’m just wondering how much tiptoeing around sacred cows there’s been. I’ve not heard immigration, stopping it, being posed as stopping the problem getting bigger and no mention of faith schools even though that’s proven to work previously with Jews and Catholics in their previous terrorist emergencies and the number 18, 18-years-old being mentioned quite a lot but the age of sexual consent in this country is 16 and there’s been no talk of changing it to 18 and we’ve been hearing of bringing voting down to 16. So how many sacred cows are just being tiptoed around because its inconvenient?’
Baroness Goudie: ‘So would you like to start for us?’
Nikita Malik: ‘Sure, so I think this question on…maybe I’ll address two questions and the first of those was on women’s rights and the life you would have here versus in Syria. You know, when the Prevent programme came out and was criticised, and was actually created under the Labour Party, as I understand it was originally created so that intervention providers would be able to work face-to-face with girls like this and completely take apart some of these conceptions. Many times when I’ve seen these cases, I alluded to these previously, there are multiple safeguarding harms happening. It’s not just that you are drawn to an extremist group and maybe that will give you some kind of life but it’s that you hate your home environments and you’ve never seen what it would be like to have some kind of career like that so the mentorship aspect is so important and I think it’s about time that we begin to address some of these cultural barriers as well. There was a time when the police would say we must empower the mothers of these families but then how empowered are the mothers if they’re not given a voice. It’s very well for the policed to come in and give money for the mothers to do more but without fully understanding what kind of life might be happening in the home. So I think we have a lot more work to do there and it’s not helped by a lot of the criticism, rightly or wrongly, that the programme has received.
And then in terms of the idea of citizenship stripping. Men, we have had cases, shortly after Shamina Begum we had a case of so-called ‘jihadi jack’ coming out and saying ‘I miss my mother and I miss having tea and cupcakes and you know we will have more of these cases and citizenship stripping, though I personally am against it and I have spoken and said that in the media but it has been used over a hundred times and the cases have not been publicised. Suddenly the public is outraged and has an opinion on this case but we’re being very quiet about the fact that it isn’t the first time this is happening so we’re a bit late to the judgement if this has happened hundreds of times already and those cases have not been given nearly as much coverage as her case has spoken to the public and again we were all following this case in 2015 when she left so those are the two points I will get to so everybody gets the chance to speak.’
Abigail Clay: ‘Very briefly, I think the lady at the back about our responses to male and female victims of abuse. I think sometimes we can be more sympathetic to cases of boys who were victims of abuse, especially in terms of CSE, grooming because it seemed to come as a surprise that boys could be victims of CSE and there was some reluctance for them to come forward for whatever reason. But I think if it was a direct comparison we would probably think this is a male single-parent who deserves all of our support. That may be a personal opinion but generally speaking as we’ve heard males were fighters and have therefore had different experiences and it may be clearly that they have committed actual criminal acts. In terms of the ages of children that we’ve spoken about – there are are very clear guideline in the UK. 16 is the age of sexual consent which is totally different to being protected as a child until your 18th Birthday. The issue of consent is a much broader topic but in essence that is it. Faith schools, Nikita does touch on that in her latest report and although it’s a small sample it seems to be representative of my experience certainly. That lack of scrutiny across all faith schools provides a bit of an echo chamber perhaps and a lack of ability to expect and maintain standards
Saima Lofgren: ‘So I really wanted to respond your point and your point because that is really the crux of my work, is oftebn working with families. So I never realised as an intervention provider, I thought I was going to be tested in this one-to-one work on my knowledge of Islam and having to really create some flexibility and work in the grey areas around Islam but it’s not really. It’s actually been working with families and thinking about limited choice and experiences and not just within the immediate family context but actually about how these young people – and especially girls in my case, how they’re responded to in schools and colleges and what they think their expectations will be in life and working with those aspirations. And often, I’d work with families and they’d say ‘I’m so surprised this was my daughter who was stopped at the airport on the way to Syria, she was such a good girl, she spent all her time upstairs in her bedroom, on her computer, she never left the house, she had no white friends, she was wonderful. And you’re often sat there wondering that if she got let out now and again this might not have happened. And then it’s how do you work with these families to say take a bit of a risk and it’s a real stretching that idea of safety with them and I’m glad you used the word ‘love’ because often id go back to my policing colleagues or safeguarding colleagues and they’d be all concerned like this is abuse. But for the parents it comes from a place of wanting to protect. And in fact the amount of liaison work I’ve ended up doing in this role is unbelievable, diplomacy skills are needed. And just to say about Islam, I think its incredible that most of the intervention providers who are commissioned by the government are some sort of self-proclaimed experts in Islam but it actually comes up so little. Ideological motivation in the female cases I’ve worked with never comes up, it really has been about choice. And I’ll speak to these girls and they’ll say ‘I wanted to go to Syria because I thought I’d live with a group of women and go to university together, we’d cook together, we’d do our laundry together and then maybe we’d get married. And there’s none of this ‘I was living out some kind of Islamic dream.’ And I’m going to sidestep the sacred cows.’
Kimberley: ‘So just really quickly, two points and I’ll start with you. I don’t think I’ll get to all of your points. But in regards to immigration I have found that in extremist propaganda they seem to threaten anybody who even says they’re going to return to any kind of country other than the caliphate. Theyh don’t want anybody going back to the UK, to the United States. So for somebody to take that step and say I want to return, they are putting their life on the line. They don’t want people coming here as refugees, they don’t want people coming here to seek amnesty and so for somebody to take that step I think that it is a genuine want, I think that it is very low risk involved if you look at the research and empirical evidence on people returning. So I don’t think immigration is as big of an issue as some people believe. I only have a few minutes and would certainly be happy to talk about that and discuss that with you. We might need to agree to disagree but as a scholar who looks at immigration also in the United States, I just don’t see that threat there.
With regards to women versus men and if Shamina was a male and she was 19…personally from my background, and I tell some stories about young men who were 15 or 16-years-old and they were recruited and fighting in Syria, I don’t think they should be treated as victims, they’re child soldiers and I don’t think that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t face punishment and I don’t think that Shamina shouldn’t face punishment if she returns back. But I think to leave her there is not humanitarian and if she were a male I would have the same opinion’
Questioner 7: But you’re a scholar working with evidence and I’m talking about public perceptions. I just sense that the public response to Shamina was ‘aww she’s given birth and she’s just a girl and she’s this’ and we just wouldn’t have that kind of language about a man (inaudible) the very act of going to there is a crime’
Baroness Goudie: ‘I’m sorry we’ll have a further discussion at another time because we only have the room until two o’clock and we have to give it back because there’s another group coming. I wish I could’ve had a lot more to say but I really wanted the experts and for you to hear them having had a lot of background in this area myself’
Kimberley Mehlman-Orozco: ‘One more quick point. I brought some complimentary copies of my book, if anybody they’re complimentary so I don’t have that many for everybody but just see me outside’.
Baroness Goudie: I’d like to thank everybody, thank you’.