For the family of a teenage girl who has run off to join Islamic State, to contemplate what life must be like for her must be terrifying. There will be a whole flood of emotions from fear to betrayal – to say it must be a difficult time is to vastly understate it.
Among its many acts of brutality, Islamic State has a well-earned reputation for violence against women. A report by Amnesty International found that hundreds of women and girls have been subjected to a brutal regime of rape, torture and sex slavery by militants who use it as a weapon of war in the lands they invade.
But their reprehensible behaviour is not just limited to women they conquer as unbelievers, they also carry out forced marriages, and the execution of women who make unapproved contact with members of the opposite sex.
A London counter-extremism think-tank says it translated a document written by women in Islamic State which makes clear a woman’s role was to be “sedentary” and supportive of the man by cooking and cleaning and producing their babies.
And that’s before the worries that come with children being in a war zone and the threat of violent death at the hand of an enemy, in this case an enemy supported by very sophisticated airstrikes.
If it is difficult to see why young women are attracted to life with IS, it is not hard to see why the parents of those women are terrified.
So the question has to be: where the institutions of state can be brought to bear to help parents? First of all it has to be acknowledged that a determined young person is difficult to thwart. They will often find a way to do what they want regardless, or in some cases in active defiance of, the wishes of their parents and society around them.
There were mistakes in the case of Shamima Begum and Amira Abase, both 15, and Kadiza Sultana, 16, who left their London homes last month and are now believed to be in Syria. A fourth girl from the same school had had gone months earlier, and although the Metropolitan Police were aware of the risks, a letter outlining the risks to the girls’ parents was handed to the girls to deliver. Needless to say the parents did not receive it.
But David Cameron was right when he said no institution should be made a scapegoat for the girls’ disappearance. Instead the focus must be on what the state can do to help in the practical prevention of reoccurances. Border personnel must be more alert to young women travelling to likely entry places, particularly if they are in a group. The police must alert parents where there are specific fears. Teachers have to be alert to pupils’ behaviour; friends must be willing to do what is in their friends’ best interests and tell a teacher.
In short, everyone has to be alert to the possibilities, and to realise that it is right to act to prevent these very young people making a terrible mistake.
Reality TV is not to blame for crash
The deaths of the ten people involved in the filming of the French reality show Dropped in Argentina are a tragedy, and sympathies have to go out to the loved ones of the eight French nationals and their two Argentine pilots who died when two helicopters collided in La Rioja province in the country’s north-west.
France has been stricken by the news, with president François Hollande, prime minister Manuel Valls and culture minister Fleur Pellerin all paying heartfelt tribute.
Inevitably focus has fallen on the three sports stars among the dead: yachtswoman Florence Arthaud, Olympic swimmer Camille Muffat and Olympic boxer Alexis Vastine.
This just serves to reinforce the part that successful sportsmen and women can play in a nation’s collective psyche and how much they become symbolic of the values that sport represents.
Sympathies must also go out to the other members of the show – reports say that other contestants were standing on the ground, blindfolded, just a few hundred metres away and that must have been extremely traumatic for them.
As is routine under French law, prosecutors have launched an inquiry – and there is already criticism appearing in the French press about the value of such reality TV shows.
But this tragedy cannot be allowed to become a judgment on reality TV. Such shows have become a broadcasting phenomenon, because they are immensely popular. This show should be halted out of respect for the dead, but it appears to be simply a tragic accident and has to be recognised as such.
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