CAGE releases report on purported threat of British fighters returning from Syria

Blowback – foreign fighters and the threat they pose written by CAGE’s Research Director Asim Qureshi, (you can see Asim on Newsnight and Channel 4 speaking about British Fighters in Syria), argues that the threat of blowback by fighters returning from Syria is exaggerated and that counter-terrorism measures used to deal with the purported threat are alienating Muslims. The release of the report comes just weeks after Sir Richard Dearlove, former MI6 chief, claimed that the government had exaggerated the threat posed by returnees from the war in Syria in a speech at the Royal United Services Institute.
The main points of the report are:
  • There is no empirical evidence of blowback because not only have the 58 of the 66 men that have been involved in terrorist plots since 9/11 never trained or fought overseas, they have cited foreign and domestic grievances as the main contributing factor.
  • Britons fighting in Syria should be viewed through the prism of international law and not through a counter-terrorism paradigm.
  • The threat of terrorism has always existed – The UK government’s foreign and, more recently, its domestic policy has led to the continued threat of terrorism in the UK.
Selected quotes:
‘In almost every single case of individuals having fought abroad, there is little to suggest that such training or fighting had resulted directly in the decision to carry out an act of political violence in the UK. What, however, is clear, is the correlation between foreign and domestic grievances against the UK government, and the decision by these men to be involved in some form of plot.’
‘The form of blanket criminalisation that is being witnessed in response to the involvement of British men and women in Syria, is completely disproportional to any threat that has so far manifested. When juxtaposed with other societal issues, such as drugs or other forms of violent crime, no such disproportionate policy or securitisation is seen.’
‘Current UK government policy in relation to Syria is both confused and dangerous. The government has been inconsistent in the way it has handled the revolutions in Libya and Syria. While in the former they were actively involved in supporting rebels and permitting foreign fighters to become involved, in the latter they have taken the approach that involvement constitutes.’

Blowback report free download

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(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.)