Syria conflict: London mother helped son flee IS

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Media captionLondon mother: "I allowed my son to come back [from fighting in Syria] and accepted him with love"

A mother whose son joined a militant group linked to IS in Syria has described how she travelled to Turkey and managed to persuade him to return home.

The woman, who does not wish to be named, travelled to the Turkish-Syrian border after her son disappeared earlier this year.

"I was constantly trying to find ways of getting him to come back," said the 45-year-old from north London.

"I realised saying 'I need you to come home' and that kind of anger was just completely futile, so I stopped doing that."

Her son converted to Islam three years ago at the age of 18 after attending talks at his local mosque and researching the religion online.

"My son came to Islam through his own decision, he wasn't forced or anything like that," she said.

However after seeing reports of the conflict in Syria, he secretly travelled to the country to join a militant group linked to IS.

Once there, he phoned his mother to tell her where he was.

"My son never told me he was going to go to Syria. He knew I would have stopped him," she said.

"I think the reason he went was because he felt quite upset about the oppression that's going on there and in his naive mind he thought he could go out there and help."

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Her son travelled to Syria after being concerned by reports of the conflict

She was shocked, but she managed to maintain contact with her son and during their conversations she tried to convince him to return to the UK.

"When he'd phone me I would feel relieved, then I would think right well at least he's all right," she said.

"And then after a few days of not hearing from him the anxiety would start again."

So she tried a new tactic.

"I don't know if I did it consciously, but I kind of said, you know you've made a decision and I can't cope living in this flat without you because it is too upsetting so I'm going to work abroad," she said.

"I think that took the power out of his rebellion. He kind of started to think again and that was the catalyst to him coming back."

Her son had been in Syria for four months when he decided to try and make his way home. However, he suffered a back injury in crossfire between two rival factions and is still receiving treatment for his wounds.

"He was traumatised and in quite a fragile state," she said.

"At that point I knew I was going to have to go to Turkey because it gave him something to aim for, he knew his mum was waiting for him."

She got on the next flight and made her way to Adana, a town near the Turkish-Syrian border. On arrival she used the internet in an attempt to trace a "safe" route for her son to reach her.

After texting him the address of a hotel she thought he could get to, she waited.

"I completely lost contact with him. I didn't know what was going on," she said.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The Home Office estimates about 500 Britons have travelled to Syria

Two weeks after she arrived in Turkey he turned up at the hotel.

"I was so relieved and felt really good about how it worked out," she added.

After returning to the UK her son was questioned by the Metropolitan Police.

The son was also approached by officials from MI5 but she said the contact had made it hard for her son to adjust to life back in London.

"My son felt pressurised and quite fragile," she said. "It made him quite mistrusting, a bit paranoid."

Despite this she does not regret her decision to bring her son home.

"How it actually worked out, the result was amazing," she said.

"I did actually manage to get my son back."

BBC Inside Out London is on BBC One in the London region on Monday, 20 October at 19:30 BST and nationwide on the iPlayer for 28 days thereafter.

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