(London, UK) CAGE views with grave concern and scepticism the national campaign launched by counter-terrorism police in relation to British Muslims travelling to Syria.
The campaign ostensibly appears to be motivated by compassion for women from the Muslim community who believe their loved ones have traveled or wish to travel to Syria. In reality, CAGE believes that it is nothing more than a disingenuous attempt to engage vulnerable members of the Muslim community in surveillance operations.
The devastating consequences of participating in such operations can be seen from previous cases of a similar nature. In February 2006, the concerned parents of Ilford teenager Mohammed Irfan Raja contacted the police after finding a note from their son stating that he was going abroad for conventional warfare. Raja's parents persuaded him to return home before he had left the UK and to speak to the police openly on his return as to why he believed it was justified to fight abroad. In return for their goodwill, the police arrested Raja who was convicted of terrorism and sentenced to three years in prison, a conviction which was later overturned.
CAGE continues to receive regular reports of police and security services harassment of members of the Muslim community who have merely traveled to Turkey to deliver aid or take a vacation.
Asim Qureshi, Research Director at CAGE, said: ‘In light of the increasing hostile environment for British Muslims expressing sympathy for the plight of the Syrian people, CAGE is concerned that the police campaign has the potential to result in a McCarthyite witch-hunt.'
Mr Qureshi continued: ‘We view this as a duplicitous attempt by the police to exploit the natural anxiety of mothers in the Muslim community to assist them in their counter-terrorism work.’
Meanwhile, frustration continues among aid workers at the government’s attempt to hamper relief efforts in Syria. An aid worker who wishes not to be named, said to CAGE: ‘During my 6 months on the ground doing aid I saw little to no international support for refugees who are forced to live off waste even eating cats. The small regular convoys from the UK are a life line to innocents forgotten by bigger NGO's. How can the police and British government look to end these much needed source of essential aid when they themselves are not supporting the people.’
1. CAGE (formerly known as CagePrisoners) is an independent advocacy group that works to empower communities affected by the War on Terror.
2. The crackdown on charities working in Syria by the British government ought to be taken seriously as many of these smaller charities are able to thwart the Syrian government’s efforts at preventing aid crossing rebel held borders, and thus are the only means of food and medical help for many Syrians. This Human Rights Watch report has more information: http://www.hrw.org/news/2014/03/28/syria-defying-security-council-aid-access
3. CAGE's report Prevent: a cradle to grave police-state documents the lengths the British government has gone to in order to target the Muslim community in the name of counter-terrorism. It can be read here: http://cageuk.org/report.pdf
4. For more more information on the case of Irfan Raja, please consult here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7243780.stm
Contact: Mr Amandla Thomas Johnson
Phone: +(44) 207 377 6700
(NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.)