Reuters / Stringer
Many British jihadists who travelled to Syria and Iraq and became embroiled with the Islamic State (IS) now want to return home but have been threatened with death by senior figures in IS, The Observer reported.
The newspaper has cited a source, who “has extensive contacts among Syrian rebel groups,” as saying that dozens of British men in Syria and Iraq wanted to return home but were in effect being held against their will by Islamic State.
“There are Britons, who, upon wanting to leave have been threatened with death, either directly or indirectly,” the source said.
Former Guantanamo Bay detainee Moazzam Begg told The Observer that he knew of at least 30 people who had gone over to fight Assad but had become involved with IS, many for language reasons, as IS has more English speakers in its ranks.
“When it becomes solidified as an Islamic State, a caliph, and you swear allegiance, thereafter if you do something disobedient you are now disobeying the caliph and could be subject to disciplinary measures which could include threats or death,”said Begg.
Reuters / Stringer
Begg has called on the UK government to introduce an amnesty for jihadists and to set up rehabilitation programs, like in Denmark, which help young men coming back to get their lives back on track without being prosecuted. Some members of the British government, have however, suggested that returning British jihadists should instead be tried for treason.
Begg, as well as spending years in Guantanamo, has also spent seven months in Belmarsh prison after being arrested for a trip he made to Syria in 2013. Begg was released earlier this month after it emerged secret intelligence material had been withheld from police, suggesting a strong possibility he has been in contact with MI5 about his Syria trips.
Begg is outreach director for Cage, an independent human rights organization which campaigns against the so-called War on Terror, and says a lot of Britons who went out to fight in Syria and Iraq are “between a rock and a hard place”.
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