icon bookmark-bicon bookmarkicon cameraicon checkicon chevron downicon chevron lefticon chevron righticon chevron upicon closeicon v-compressicon downloadicon editicon v-expandicon fbicon fileicon filtericon flag ruicon full chevron downicon full chevron lefticon full chevron righticon full chevron upicon gpicon insicon mailicon moveicon-musicicon mutedicon nomutedicon okicon v-pauseicon v-playicon searchicon shareicon sign inicon sign upicon stepbackicon stepforicon swipe downicon tagicon tagsicon tgicon trashicon twicon vkicon yticon wticon fm
2 Aug, 2013 02:03

'My son was radicalized, recruited to join jihad in Syria' - Belgian father

Accounts of Belgian youths joining the rebel forces in Syria have raised questions about the radicalization process in the country. RT has interviewed one father who driven by love placed his life at risk to find his son.

Dimitri Bontinck is on a crusade to find his son Jejoen and return with him to Belgium, after the teenager fled to fight with the jihadists against government forces. The last time the father saw his son was in March when Jejoen informed him that he was going to study in Egypt.

Bontinck claims that his son underwent an Islamic radicalization process which took approximately two years. Prior to Jejoen’s conversion to Islam, his father said he was raised Catholic. Jejoen lived with his Belgian father and Nigerian mother in Antwerp, Belgium's second largest city.

“Two years ago he was a western child, who had the best education you can ever imagine. He was a Jesuit. He went to elite schools in Belgium. He had a Catholic education. I’m an atheist, his mother is Catholic,” Bontinck told RT.

Bontinck believes that his teenage son embarked on the path of Islam after a failed teenage love affair, after which Jejoen became involved with a “Moroccan girlfriend who changed his mind to become Muslim.”

His father claimed that the new convert started going to a local Mosque where he was “converted by Sharia4Belgium,” a radical Salafist organisation which denounces democracy and calls for the creation of an Islamic state in Belgium. Sharia4Belgium was officially disbanded, but the organisation claims to continue to have influence.

The father alleges that his son was later brought to the organization’s headquarters where the teenager underwent “transformation” to the point where his parents “could not recognize our own son anymore.” The “indoctrination,” the father says changed his son’s physical appearance when he grew a beard. Jejoen then traveled to the Netherlands with “Muslim brothers” and on to Cairo, where this group promised to give him money to study Islam.

“I did not trust it, I had a feeling that something was going wrong, because I’ve received news from other parents in Western Europe” that their kids ended up in Syria fighting the government forces, Bontinck told viewers.

After weeks of failing to reach his son and discovering videos of him with members of Sharia4Belgium made by a studio in Aleppo, Bontinck concluded that Jejoen had joined a group of young Belgians in Syria and went to the country to find his son.

image from http://static1.nieuws.vtm.be/

Once he got to Syria, one group “kidnapped" Bontinck. "They put a cap over me. I was almost dead,” he told RT, adding that they accused him of “being a spy working with the CIA.”

He never got a chance to see his son. Bontinck says that parents don’t know “anything” about their teenagers once they reach Syria. “No phone calls, no contact, no Skype. Nothing.”

The jihadists groups fighting in Syria, the father says, “kidnap” the European youth and are “using these young children. They don’t want them to see their family, or that they go back to Europe.”  Bontinck urged the international community to “stand up and react” to get the children back home.

AFP Photo / Daniel Leal-Olivas

The European parliament on Thursday was urged by nine European nations to review plans for an EU-wide passenger data list that politicians argue would help prevent suspected militants traveling to fight in Syria. Member states fear that an estimated 600 EU residents are believed to be fighting against Assad forces will return home to carry out attacks in Europe.

Earlier attempts to introduce legislation that would require airlines to share personal data on their customers failed in April. Concerned about privacy issues, the introduction of "Passenger Name Record" (PNI) failed to get approval from lawmakers.

If the new bid is successful, airlines would be required to provide information to member states of passengers entering or leaving the EU. Sixteen EU states assemble passenger data but do share it with their neighbors.

The petition by the interior ministers of France and Belgium, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Britain and Sweden underlined "the importance, for the security of the European Union and those who live within it, of being able to quickly have at our disposal a PNR system offering a high level of privacy protection," the statement said.