One of the would-be jihadists apprehended in Turkey over the weekend en-route to Syria has been told that he may return to school as soon as “things settle down”. The youths from Brent, London, none of whom have yet been named, were described as “naïve” and “caught up in emotions” by Councillor Muhammed Butt, leader of Brent Council.
Mr Butt met with the two 17-year-old boys after they were bailed by counter terrorism officers in Central London, the Daily Mail has reported. Speaking to Channel 4 News he said: “One of them was saying to me ‘When can I go back to school?’ I said to him ‘I think you have to wait a little bit longer to let things settle down and we can work with the school and everyone else and make sure things are right for you to go back’.”
The pair were prevented from entering Turkey at about 11pm on Saturday night by immigration officers. Along with a third man, aged 19, they were placed on a flight directly back to London. They had travelled to Turkey via Barcelona.
Mr Butt insists that they were not radicalised, but had merely been caught up emotionally, wanting to do some good in Syria. He said “Personally I don’t think they had been radicalised, absolutely not. I think what they’ve done is they’ve been caught up in emotions as such.
“They were looking for a platform to speak up or to say something and they haven’t found a space or a platform where they can have a grown up conversation about events in Syria.
“I met with the two boys. I met with the two families as well and you could not meet a more normal family. The two young kids they are grade A students and both of them have aspirations, one to be an engineer and one to be a doctor.
“It just beggars belief these guys got caught up in their own thinking as such, of trying to go out there and do some good. All they’ve said from the conversations I have with them is that they wanted to go out there and help.”
And he said that the teenagers had been acting normally up until their abscondment, even refusing pocket money offered to them by their parents: “One of the boys had a conversation with his father the night before and the father had asked him do you want some pocket money?
“The father gave him £20 and the child gave him £10 back. If someone is preparing to go somewhere I think you would take as much money with you as possible. And for him to give £10 back doesn’t suggest he had anything prepared or was going to do anything wrong.”
The two 17 year olds are understood to have attended Preston Manor School in Brent, where they gained A and A* results in their GCSEs last year. Investigations by police and council cheifs ruled that no radicalisation took place at the school, but it has emerged that students at the school were recently told that weekly prayer meetings must take place in English from now on, suggesting that they were not previously. Pupils have also reported that staff are now insisting that a teacher must be present at all times during prayers.
Mr Butt said that the families of the would-be jihadists “are overjoyed to have their children back. You have to bear in mind they’re still schoolchildren, still studying for their A-levels, and the families were absolutely devastated to find that the children had disappeared and then to find that they were on their way to Istanbul – the family are still in shock.
“The families are just normal, decent, hard-working families – just a normal next door family. You would have thought no different of them on Friday than you would do today, I am sure.”
He added that the youths want to return to their previous lives, saying “They just want to go back to school and continue their studies. They made a mistake and they just want to get back to normal, so that’s what we’re going to do as a council help them get back on track.”