The life of a jihadi bride as presented on Twitter by IS recruiters looks unnervingly pleasant. The promise of a largely domestic role as a bride, spending most of the time cooking, cleaning and educating the children seems tranquil and peaceful. Even images of jars of Nutella and Starbucks coffee can make it seem that becoming a jihadi bride does not involve giving up many elements of a western, capitalist lifestyle.
As a 20 year old living a westernised lifestyle, the thought of joining IS to become a jihadi bride couldn’t be any more ludicrous. However a BBC documentary from earlier this year describes how ISIS recruiters utilise social media to ‘groom’ young teenagers, highlighting to me my own ignorance on how vulnerable young women are.
The existence of radicalised IS recruiters is shockingly sophisticated in its methods. 45,000 accounts online have been linked to the terrorist group, including 30 Islamic State twitter accounts with over 100,000 followers. 10,000 twitter accounts linked to ISIS have been suspended in a single 24-hour period. More than 60 young British women have travelling to Syria, including at least 22 girls known to have joined Islamic State. It is clear that their methods are disturbingly effective.
Whilst I cannot relate to young girls who make the decision to travel to Syria, I can see how vulnerable teenagers can be persuaded into believing that a better life awaited them.
Nevertheless, the story of Scottish-born Aqsa Mahmood is particularly revealing of our modern culture turning against us in battles for our homeland security. It highlights a lack of communication between some parents and their children and just how devastating the consequences of this can be.
Social media is a great online platform which gives considerable access and freedom but we must be wary of the drawbacks. It is this access which makes young teenage girls susceptible to threats online. This does not mean I wish to do away with social media altogether but what should be acknowledged is that caution must be applied. Freedom of speech and the accessibility of information online has potentially harmful consequences when stumbled upon by vulnerable and impressionable people.
This may make me sound like a middle-aged nagging mother, barking at their son to get off the computer. Perhaps some of this element of parenting needs to be applied in order to make young people less vulnerable. How can we blame only the IS recruiters who utilise social media to succeed in their aims when some of these girls who have made their way to Syria were left alone on their computers in their room all day?
A vulnerable young girl who is active on social media is not often shy when expressing their influenced extremist beliefs. It is not sudden. They do not decide on day one to pack their bags and head off to Syria. A trail of clues is scattered across Twitter, Tumblr and all other public social media which should act as an alarm bell for others, particularly parents and guardians. When young girls like Aqsa Mahmood began blogging about her rejection of western values, was this not the time to question her?
As a fellow blogger, my parents, due to a healthy communicative relationship, are well aware of what I post and also what I tweet and post on Instagram. Parents should take responsibility for monitoring what their child posts on social media and the views that they express.
Ironically, as I went to re-watch the documentary online for this article, it asked me to confirm I was over 16 years old and whether or not I would like a parental lock. Whilst I must confirm my age to watch a documentary about extremism, I am not filtered when it comes to what I can access on social media and with whom I can communicate.