“Walthamstow mother and children ‘feared Syria-bound'” announces the BBC website this morning, with the news that Zahera Tariq is “feared to be heading for Syria” along with her four young children. In fact, relatives are reported to be “extremely worried”. I’ll bet they are.
I am sorry to recycle old material, but here goes. What aspects of life under ISIS did Zahera find so attractive? Let’s just have a look:
– Beheading elderly archaeologists?
– Beheading aid workers?
– Setting fire to or drowning prisoners?
– Throwing people who are alleged to be gay from the top of tall buildings?
– The systematic rape of women and young girls?
– Gunning tourists to death in Tunisia?
Plenty of choice for you there, Zahera, so what’s it to be?
Tariq is no spring chicken. She is 33 and has four children so she must have some kind of idea how the world works. Surely, she must have seen something – anything – from media reports which more than suggest that these ISIS thugs are probably not the best thing since sliced bread? Doubtless, we shall learn that she has been “radicalised”, a catch-all definition that continues to puzzle me. We know it’s supposed to mean brainwashed, but hang on a minute: anyone can learn from the merest dabbling on the internet what ISIS are like. Tariq must see something alluring and attractive about it?
If she really is on her way to Syria, it’s important that she realises it’s a one-way ride. It’s not a First Choice package holiday. Her sons will probably be used as suicide murder fodder, her daughter – well, I dread to think. And the children are the saddest part of this. They have absolutely no choice in the matter. They did not choose their religion or God, they were far too young to make a considered judgement about whether a family trip to Syria would be a jolly jape. It’s child abuse, pure and simple.
We have not been told about Tariq’s personal situation yet, but no reference has been made to any male partner. It’s pointless making assumptions about her, but how many Asian women actually want to marry their partners? Almost all of them end up in arranged marriages and who in their right mind would want that? I am fortunate to have been able to marry the person I love, by choice (hers!), but what if I had been presented with someone else who I didn’t fancy, who supported Bristol City, who kept ferrets in the living room, who watched the X Factor and wore a burkha? I might not choose Syria as an alternative, but I suspect I would run a fair way in that direction, perhaps stopping near Keynsham. I’ll bet there is a story, loosely based on my own experiences, lurking in the background.
What a terrible existence Tariq must have in Walthamstow to want to move her family lock, stock and barrel to live with a bunch of rapists, murderers and all round thugs. I’ve been to Walthamstow a number of times and I didn’t think it was too bad. Raqqa, the ISIS ruled city in Syria I haven’t been to, but from what I can see it doesn’t seem to be such a friendly and inviting place. But it takes all sorts, I suppose.
Do I feel sorry for Tariq? A bit, yes, but I feel much more sorry for her children and sorrier still for the poor victims of ISIS. There are all manner of victims here and it’s all a matter of degree, but Tariq comes way down my list.