‘We have to talk about Sweden’s Isis fighters’

After three young Swedes died fighting for the Islamic State (Isis) over the weekend, Ibrahim Bouraleh, the chairman of the Järva Islamic Association in Stockholm says that Swedish authorities must work harder to prevent other killings in future.

'We have to talk about Sweden's Isis fighters'
Smoke rises in the Syrian town of Kobane after an airstrike by the US led coalition. Photo: TT
Statistics from Sweden's Security Service suggest that 90 young Swedes have left Sweden to fight for Isis in Syria, Somalia, and Iraq – but that figure could be a lot higher. 
Either way, this is terribly tragic – especially as the number is growing.
From our perspective, we have three issues we need to work on:
1. The parents who are affected
They need social support. Most of them don't even know their child has gone to fight and it comes as a real shock to them to find out. Many of them say they didn't even know what was going on in the lead up to their children leaving the country. We've tried to make it possible for parents to have access to psychiatrists and imams. But we also need to help other friends and relatives. We don't want these people feeling on the outside.
2. Community prevention work
We have to actively work to prevent other young people from joining Isis. We've been looking into different models that appear to be working in both Denmark and the UK, where social services and police work together to support families affected. They work in advance, educating parents so they can spot the signals before it's too late. From there, psychologists and even police can be called in. 
3. Helping Isis fighters come home
We have to ask how we're accepting these people when they come home alive. We need to ask questions about how we can help them readjust to society. This is something we can't do alone. We need help from local authorities and other organizations with experience in this area.

Ibrahim Bouraleh. Photo: Private
I've never spoken to a young person who's gone to fight, but I have spoken to plenty of their parents. They are in despair, they feel shame, many of them don't even dare to talk about it. 
I know it's problematic, but this is a phenomenon that's new to us – and we have to talk about it. 
One of the key reasons these young guys are doing it is because they have a young person's mentality. It has nothing to do with religion, really. They want to change the world and they think this is how to do it. They think they're fighting for an ideology, for something they believe in.
These are people with good hearts, and we have to help them.
The whole thing is a tragedy that we want to prevent. I hope that we can, with help, stop these young people from heading to Somalia, Iraq and Syria. We have to listen to them. We have to break the silence. We need to dare to talk about this and try and solve it together. 

Ibrahim Bouraleh is Chairman of the Islamic Association in Järva, Stockholm

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Kurds demand Sweden take back captured Isis fighters

A top Kurdish commander has called on Sweden to take back Swedish Islamic State fighters captured in Northern Syria and Iraq.

Kurds demand Sweden take back captured Isis fighters
Nasrin Abdullah, General Commander of the YPJ. Photo: Hossein Salmanzadeh/TT
On a visit to Stockholm on Friday, Nasrin Abdullah, General Commander of the YPJ, or Women’s Protection Unit, said that it was Sweden’s responsibility to prosecute and jail its own citizens. 
“Every country must take its responsibility,” she told Sweden’s TT newswire, explaining that if Sweden and other European countries refused to accept the captives, it would be “a big problem” for the Kurds. 
“We don’t actually know what we will do with the prisoners. 
“According to our constitution, they are not allowed to be executed, so they’ll probably have to stay where they are,” she said.
But Sweden’s justice minister Morgan Johansson told TT that Sweden felt it would be better if the terrorist fighters were at least tried in Syria or Iraq. 
“It might be more difficult to carry out an investigation which could lead to a prosecution if the witnesses were all in Syria and Iraq.
“The justice process should, if it is going to be effective, be carried out there,” he said. 
The YPJ is holding roughly 300 foreign Isis fighters from 40 different countries, although Abdullah told TT that she would only give details on the number of Swedish citizens being held once formal negotiations opened with Sweden. 
Abdullah said Kurdish forces were currently trying to open negotiations with Swedish authorities over the captives. But Johansson contradicted her, maintaining that Sweden’s authorities had yet to be contacted by the YPJ about the prisoners.  
“The first thing is for the identity of the individuals to be made clear so we know they really are Swedish citizens,” he said. 
“The second thing is that if they have committed crimes where they are, they should be put in front of a court there, where there is a possibility of investigating them.” 
He denied that Sweden was trying to duck the foreign fighters issue. 
“What I want is for people who have committed crimes to face justice in some way or another,” he said.
“It’s important that we can send the signal that if you go to another country to join a terrorist sect and carry out terrible violent acts, that you risk punishment.” 
He warned that Sweden had yet to criminalise involvement in a terrorist organisation, making it hard to punish Isis fighters solely for their allegiance to the group. 
“Those people have carried out a long list of crimes there, like murder, kidnapping, rape, arson. It’s always more effective to investigate that sort of thing right where it happened.” 
Around ten people with links to Isis returned to Sweden last year after travelling to the terror organization's areas in Syria or Iraq, according to the head of the Swedish security police.