France mulls personal mentors to turn jihadists

A government report commissioned in the wake of the Paris terror attacks has revealed the number of French citizens turning to jihad has risen by 227 per cent and recommends using personal mentors to de-radicalise recruits.

France mulls personal mentors to turn jihadists
Photo: Screengrab/Journeyman TV.

The report, commissioned by French PM Manuel Valls in the days following the deadly attacks in Paris, recommends France follow the Danish example of providing personal mentors to those who have turned to jihadism.

In the Danish cities of Copenhagen and Aarhus, individual coaches are assigned to those who have been radicalised to help them try to regain a normal life.

But in France this kind of mentoring system is not well developed. The report notes that in the southern Alpes-Maritimes département, only two of 117 people identified as radicals are followed in this way.

The report also gave the latest figures on the number of French jihadists in the Middle East, which revealed that France is still the highest contributor.

As of July 2, 1,818 French-born or foreign residents of France were fighting in Iraq and Syria. That represents an increase of 42 per cent since the beginning of 2015 and 227 per cent since the beginning of 2014.

France needs to provide “individualised care” to the hundreds of French nationals who have turned to jihadism in recent months, the report recommends.

For those “hardened jihadists likely to commit attacks in France to avenge a godless society”, it says prison is the only answer.

But then there are those who are “disillusioned or disappointed” by Isis and have committed no crimes. For them, prison is not the answer, says the report’s author Sébastien Pietrasanta.

He says they need to be put on a program of de-brainwashing and reintegration and for those who are “deeply traumatised by war, the solution should be psychotherapy”.


French families sue government over children of jihadists stuck in Syria

The families of several children and wives of French jihadist fighters in Syria have filed lawsuits against France's top diplomat over his refusal to let them come to France.

French families sue government over children of jihadists stuck in Syria
Two detained French women who fled the Islamic State group's last pocket in Syria sit with their children . AFP

The suits, filed in July and September, accuse Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian of “failing to provide aid” to people in “danger” at camps operated by Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces in northeastern Syria.

The complaints were filed with the Court of Justice of the Republic (CJR), which hears cases over alleged misconduct by former or serving ministers.

It is the latest legal challenge to France's longstanding opposition to allowing the children and wives of suspected jihadists in Syria or Iraq to return home.

The government, which says it considers requests on a case-by-case basis only, has brought back just 17 children since March, many of them orphans.

Critics say the policy exposes innocent victims of the war, many of whom have suffered serious trauma during the fighting and coalition bombardments, to long-term psychological risks.

“The policy of 'case by case' keeps more than 200 children and their mothers exposed to inhumane and degrading treatment, and at risk of death,” the lawyers said

They note that Kurdish officials are also pressing European governments to repatriate citizens who went to fight for the Islamic State group in Syria, as well as their family members.

“It's a political choice not to save these children and mothers being held arbitrarily,” one of the lawyers, Marie Dose, told AFP.

Asked about the lawsuit, a foreign ministry spokeswoman said in a statement that France remained “fully mobilised so that each situation is handled with the children's interests in mind.”

“Our priority is to ensure the return of the most vulnerable orphan or isolated children,” she added.

A similar lawsuit was filed against France last May at the European Court of Human Rights, by the grandparents of two children stranded with their French jihadist mother in Syria.

The boy and girl, who were born in Syria, are among an estimated 500 children of French citizens who joined the Islamic State's so-called “caliphate” before the jihadists' last Syrian redoubt was overrun in March.