Leeds & West Yorkshire

Refugee mother urges women not to go to Syria

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Media captionA new video features Syrian women urging young women from the UK not to go to the war-torn country

A Syrian mother has urged women from the UK not to travel to Syria in a film by counter-terrorism officials.

Police are "deeply concerned" by figures that reveal 56 women and girls are thought to have fled to the war-torn country last year.

Esaaf Al-Ahmed arrived in Bradford with her family last year.

She is one of three Syrian mothers speaking about the reality of life in their home country and the terror that made them flee to the UK.

A national survey carried out last year revealed two-thirds of 11 to 25-year-olds were most likely to speak to their mother if they considered travelling to a conflict zone.

Last June, three sisters from Bradford - Khadija, Sugra and Zohra Dawood - disappeared from their homes with their nine children.

Their brother is understood to be fighting with extremists in Syria.

Helen Ball, Deputy Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, said women and girls were "unaware of the dangers they face".

'Freedom and opportunity'

A mother who tried to abduct her two children to live in Syria under the so-called Islamic State was jailed last week for five years and four months.

The 34-year-old woman from Bradford was stopped by the Turkish authorities last October.

She told the court she wanted to live under strict Sharia law.

Image copyright Dawood family pictures via solicitor
Image caption Sisters Sugra, Zohra and Khadija Dawood have not been heard from since 9 June

Mrs Al-Ahmed and her daughters, four-year-old Hala, eight-year-old Rashal and 14-year-old Rasha, were given sanctuary under the government's Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme on medical grounds.

Her husband, Walid, had cancer in the Jordanian refugee camps where the family were living.

Mrs Al-Ahmed said in the "Prevent Tragedies" campaign film that young women "wrongly believe they have a future" in Syria.

Image caption The Al Ahmed family have settled in Bradford after being forced from their home in Syria to live in Lebanon

She said: "My message to young women is think about yourself, and your future, rather than go to Syria and face arrest, torture, or even death.

"Build your future here where you have freedom and opportunity."

Assistant Chief Constable Angela Williams from West Yorkshire Police said the messages by so-called Islamic State were "misleading" and "do not reflect the reality" of living in Syria.

"Children have been taken to dangerous places and are at great risk; vulnerable people have been brainwashed into travelling" she said.

"My message to mothers across the region is to please come forward if you have any concerns."

"We would much rather intervene at an early stage before somebody is criminalised."

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