The Austrian government is struggling to find a way to stop young Austrians with Middle Eastern roots from travelling to join the jihad in Syria. More than 100 have already left to fight in Syria, according to a report in Der Standard, with a 19-year old Viennese man from a Tunisian family among the latest to join the so-called Sunni caliphate of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
According to Der Standard, the young man, who is now in the Syrian city of Raqqa, was heavily influenced by an anti-Western mullah who preaches in a small mosque in Vienna’s second district.
A young Austrian of Kurdish origin, also influenced by the mullah, died last year fighting with a radical Islamist group in Aleppo.
These two were far from alone in their “Kampf gegen Ungläubige,” their fight against the infidels. More than 100 people have travelled from Austria to join the jihad, with half of them of Chechen background and the others of Bosnian, Turkish and Kurdish background.
Any Austrian joining a terrorist organisation is liable to prosecution and when a known jihadists return to Austria he will be questioned by authorities. However, the authorities find it difficult to prevent anyone leaving for the Middle East, because “very few make their plans to go to jihad publicly.”
However, “The more advanced the plans are, the more likely a criminal prosecution is possible in order to prevent an exit.”
In France, the growing number of jihadists wishing to leave has meant that Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve has presented a plan to prevent potential combatants from leaving for Turkey or Syria. Germany is also thinking about tightening exit requirements, according to Der Standard.
In Austria, a tightening of the law on citizenship is planned. A statement from the Interior Ministry said: “A citizen who actively participates voluntarily for an armed group in hostilities abroad as part of an armed conflict, the citizenship shall be withdrawn if he does not become stateless.”
Plans are also being drawn up to prevent minors from leaving the country without parental consent, after two girls aged 15 and 16 escaped to the Middle East. Three other young people under the age of 18 were recently stopped by authorities as they made their way from Austria through Romania to Turkey on their way to Syria. They are now back in Austria with their parents.