“Day of Hijra”….. personal accounts, links and resources exploring foreign fighters in Syria, Iraq


Hijra… migration or journey… 

The following post contains a blog I was sent today allegedly written by an aspiring “jihadist” about to embark on his “hijra” (migration) to Syria. Historically, hijra refers to the Prophet Muhammad’s migration (622 ce) from Mecca to Medina in order to escape persecution. The date represents the starting point of the Muslim era. Today it may mean a journey to a place which is considered a centre of Islam and could include taking up arms as in Iraq and Syria.

I recently received the following request from a lady regarding a young person who may already be there, no names were given to me of either the author of the blog or the person referred to in correspondence. The message stated,

“hello- I needed some advice. It’s come to light a friend’s son may have gone to Syria- parents think maybe to join IS…….

They are too scared to go to police. I would be grateful if you could advise please. Thank you.”

I did not feel in a position to advise on this difficult issue myself (which has now become criminalized) only to refer the lady to a more knowledgeable source. I put her in touch with a man who had himself travelled to the region so had an idea of the situation on the ground and could point to information of practical value regarding her son. I am aware a son or daughter leaving in this way can cause a huge dilemma for families, whether to seek help by reporting the person’s departure or not. It has become increasingly difficult for young persons that have gone abroad to join the battlefield to return home if they so wish. Families are afraid if they report loved ones leaving, their child will be punished in the event of coming back to the UK causing friction in relationships and possibly the wider community.

It is with this in mind, I have published a young man’s feelings on leaving for Syria and also a list of articles and resources exploring the complexities of foreign fighters abroad and if considering returning.

“Day of Hijra”

“…And then comes the day, when you make hijra for the sake of Allah and you can’t tell your mum where your going, you go to visit her…its late, you are feeling sad, you sit with her, your mind working hard, trying to work out a way to explain to her, but you can’t.

You ask her to make dua for you, but you make it out its a general dua and that Allah protects you. You want to ask her to forgive you for all the hardship you may have caused, all the suffering, all the times you neglected her, but you are worried you would give away your plans.

You normally do the shopping for her in the house, and she asks you to get some items for her, and you say no problem but you know you will be leaving in a few hours in the night.  That moment being a hard moment, probably one of the hardest moments you have faced, that this maybe the last time you see your mother, you make a promise that you know you will not fulfill. It eats you away, you want to cry, you want to scream,  you want to just hug your mother for the last time .You stand up, you tell her you are leaving, she acknowledges you but she thinks she will see you tomorrow bringing the shopping.

You know this is it, there’s no changing the times, you pause wanting to say something but you cant, you want to hug her but you can’t, tear rolls down your eyes, you turn to your side so she doesn’t see, you say salaam, she responds, you pause. You walk out the room, you walk out the house, you leave the town, you leave the country…”

-Tweets From a Mujahid who left Britain and came to Syria! (Feb 15 2015 / 26 4 1436 )


20 Links and Resources exploring Foreign Fighters in Syria


(image Reuters)

1) “Western foreign fighters in Syria”  The International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence (ICSR) 

“ICSR is engaged in an expansive study of foreign fighters participating in the Syrian conflict. In particular, this project focuses on fighters from North America, Europe, and Australasia. The primary focus of our research is to explore, understand, and explain what motivates young men to become foreign fighters. Why do they go? How do they get there? What do they do? And will they pose a threat to the West?

Using pioneering social science methods, we have developed an extensive database of several hundred fighters, monitoring their social media footprint. We speak to fighters and interview them to learn more about their experiences. Finally, we combine these approaches with practical fieldwork, travelling to Turkish/Syrian border towns and interviewing fighters there.

The outgrows of this project have already informed policy in the European Union, United Kingdom, Belgium, Germany, United States, and Australia.”


2) “Iraq and Syria: Who are the foreign fighters?” (BBC) 


3) “Jihad, Syria and social media, how foreign fighters have documented their war” 


4) “Syria: Sky News gains access to British jihadists” 


5) “Syria: Britain’s new war on terror” (Moazzam Begg, CagePrisoners)


6) “CAGE on Channel 4 News discussing British fighters in Syria” 


7) “Special report: Interview with British jihadists and what you won’t read in the tackling extremism in the UK report”


8) “Britons in Syria: At home with Syria’s British jihadis”


9) “Middle East: From a private school in Cairo to ISIS killing fields in Syria”


10) “Greenbirds: Measuring Measuring Importance and Influence in Syrian Foreign Fighter Networks”

Click to access ICSR-Report-Greenbirds-Measuring-Importance-and-Infleunce-in-Syrian-Foreign-Fighter-Networks.pdf

11) “Schoolgirl jihadis: The female Islamists leaving home to join ISIS”


12) “British women joining jihad in Syria” 

13) “Women of the Islamic State: A manifesto on women by the Al-Khanssaa Brigade” (translated by Quilliam foundation)

Click to access women-of-the-islamic-state3.pdf

14) “European jihadists: It ain’t half hot here, mum”


15) “Canada is not safe: New video message from Canadian jihadist with Islamic State” (now deceased)


16) “German foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq” (Combating Terrorism Centre)


17) “France 24 Exclusive: “Confessions of a French jihadist in Syria”


18) “Police betrayed me” says mother of imprisoned British jihadist


19) “UK terror fears: My jihadist son returned from Syria mentally scarred – now he is being ignored”


20) “12 years for British jihadist” 


Carol Anne Grayson is an independent writer/researcher on global health/human rights/WOT and is Executive Producer of the Oscar nominated, Incident in New Baghdad. She is a Registered Mental Nurse with a Masters in Gender Culture and Development. Carol was awarded the ESRC, Michael Young Prize for Research 2009, and the COTT ‘Action = Life’ Human Rights Award’ for “upholding truth and justice”. She is also a survivor of US “collateral damage”.

About Carol Anne Grayson

Blogging for Humanity.... Campaigner/researcher global health/human rights/drones/WOT/insurgency http://www.esrc.ac.uk/ESRCInfoCentre/PO/experts/Health_and_Wellbeing.aspx Exec Producer of Oscar nominated documentary Incident in New Baghdad, currently filming on drones.
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