Who should shoulder the blame for jihadists leaving France to fight in Syria and Iraq? For one French mum, there's no doubt who is responsible.
The mother filed the lawsuit with a Paris court in November – about a year after the 16-year-old caught a plane to Turkey before making his way to Syria – accusing police of neglecting to question him about why he was travelling alone and why he was travelling without a passport.
“I hold the state responsible for my son’s departure,” she said, implying that such questions might have prevented him from leaving French territory.
“It’s absurd that the law allows a minor to depart for Turkey, known for being a passage point to Syria, with just an ID card,” the woman, who was identified only as Nadine D., told French daily Le Parisien in an exclusive interview, implying that the lack of a passport should at least have alerted them that he might not have had his parents’ consent to leave.
“Considering what’s on in the news, the border police should have at least worried that a minor was going to this destination on his own. Common sense would have been to ask him why he was going there, if he had any family ties there, or why he wasn’t being accompanied (by adults),” she said.
Nadine’s lawsuit is the first of its kind in France but time has yet to tell whether it will have any actual bearing. While French citizens are allowed to use their national ID cards for travel to most European countries, including Turkey, France has the highest number of people in Europe that have joined extremist Islamist groups in Syria and Iraq. To date, more than 1,000 French citizens are believed to have joined jihadist groups there.
But even if the departure in itself may not be found to be a breach of the law, Nadine is accusing the police of neglecting to employ a principal of risk prevention.
According to Nadine, France’s Interior Ministry has denied any responsibility in her son’s departure, saying that the trip in itself wasn’t illegal and that “border police had no reason to stop him from travelling”.
Like many other French parents whose children have left to wage jihad, Nadine said her son just didn’t come home one day and that she learned from other parents in her neighbourhood that he had left with two or three friends to Turkey in a bid to reach the Syrian border.
“I didn’t believe it, until he phoned me the next evening. He was crying and told me: ‘Mum, I’m sorry, I’m in Turkey and I’m leaving for Syria tomorrow to do aid work’. I just broke down and I got very angry,” she said.
Nadine said her son had grown up in a Catholic home, but that he began to show interest in Islam about a year before his departure after being influenced by some school friends.
“His behaviour didn’t change, aside from the fact that he refused to eat pork.”
Nadine said her son regularly contacts her on Skype or Facebook.
“Our exchanges are brief. He tries to reassure me that everything is fine and that he hasn’t done anything bad. In reality, I’m certain that he’s under surveillance during our exchanges.”
France's interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve said that in France the number of people involved in the jihadist network has jumped by 89 percent since the beginning of the year.
Some 1,150 French citizens are part of the network, including 300 to 350 on the ground, more than 50 who have died and some 200 who have returned to France.
The remainder of the network involves recruiters and supporters.