Mosque shootings were perpetrated by a vicious fantasist, not a warrior.

Yesterday morning many of us sat in horror, watching the news come in that a gunman had killed dozens of people around two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, in a terrorist attack.

The 28 year old was quickly named as Brenton Tarrant as he live-streamed the massacre on 8chan, leaving the number of dead at 49 so far with more currently being treated for serious injuries. He first published his ‘manifesto’ online. I say manifesto loosely. Really it was some jumbled, egotistical pseudo-intellectual rantings to justify killing men, women and children for reasons that no sane person could understand. People who pleaded with him to live. People who were just trying to pray before he murdered them.

The attacks have received worldwide condemnation, including from Pewdiepie, who Tarrant referenced in his video while sat in his vehicle, encouraging people to subscribe to his channel. Pewdiepie is a video game YouTuber who has attracted controversy for the racist and anti Semitic terms he has used in his commentaries. He has been quick to publicly distance himself from Tarrant’s actions, but not every one has been so quick to condemn him it seems.

Fraser Anning, the senator for Queensland released a statement in which he said that the attack was an inevitable outcome of Muslim immigration policy and while muslims were the victims in this case, they were usually the perpetrators, that “muslims are killing people in the name of their faith on an industrial scale”. The sly suggestion that Anning hints at is that this was just retaliation. But here’s the thing: Brenton Tarrant didn’t murder muslims in some bizarre revenge fantasy. He killed them simply because they were there. He was quite clear in his intentions during his online activities beforehand and was a self described “eco-fascist” who felt that this was his duty. 

So what is an eco-fascist? Sounds like a deeply troubled hippy on a bad Mkat comedown. It’s worse. Really it’s a movement of ethno-nationalists and eugenicists using environmentalism to thinly veil their racist ideas and distorted notion of purity, promoting that returning to our geographical roots can save the planet. Which is odd when you consider that Tarrant was an Australian in New Zealand who had Scottish, English and Irish heritage.

Eco fascism has slowly seeped into environmentalist circles over a number of years, coming into conflict with left leaning activists when they are identified. Some of their accounts contain the hashtag #efds, meaning eco-fascist death squads. Intended ‘as a joke’ of course. Until lots of people die as a result. There also seems to be an obsession with Norse mythology, which was shared by Tarrant who told viewers he’d see them in Valhalla.

Typically the eco-fascists despise multiculturalism and often talk of a need to cull the population. Not white people though, just the brown ones. Because racial mixing is another hatred of theirs. Far right groups will often take crimes that have made the news that we are all rightly outraged and disgusted by- grooming gangs, sexual assaults and murders- but focus only those committed by people from ethnic backgrounds. Regardless of the wishes of the victims of those crimes or their families, they use the public’s anger to fuel their agenda, which doesn’t usually involve genuine concern for the safety of women and girls. For the core of the Far Right, the real source of their vitriol is not assaults on white women by immigrants, its racial mixing even in happy and consensual relationships. Over the last few years I’ve seen this belief become less and less concealed, referring to mixed race people as mongrels and half-breeds and to white Islamic converts as blood-traitors.

Tarrant talked about the decline in birth rates in white Europeans, believed that immigrants were taking over, and described his victims as “invaders who seek to occupy my people’s lands and ethnically replace my own people”. Invaders. Aliens. Mongrels. Vermin. Whatever slur is fashionable in a particular point in history, they have always been chosen to dehumanise a group of people that an individual or a regime wants to harm. For Tarrant it helped him imagine he was carrying out some sort of pest control on behalf of people who are repulsed by him.

I’ve used Brenton Tarrant’s name in this piece to avoid confusion as to who I’m talking about, but I will never utter his name again. He doesn’t deserve the notoriety.

Like many, I’ve shed a few tears of sadness and rage the last two days. To look at the face of three year old Mucad Ibrahim breaks your heart, but the image of one of the victims being carried out on a stretcher pointing his index finger to the sky also broke me.Because my grandad used to do this. It symbolises the unity of Allah, a way to say praise god. He did this when he won at the bookies, when I passed my exams, when he found out I’d been seizure free for couple of months and he did it one last time as he lay frail in a hospital bed moments before he died.

I’m not Muslim and never have been. He never minded that. He was as loved and as ordinary as all the people at the two mosques in Christchurch yesterday. Missing him is still so unbearably painful as it will always be for their families but at least I was able to prepare for it. I could accept that he had come naturally to the end of his life and it was simply time for him to leave mine.

The vile, hateful human who killed 49 people yesterday is not a soldier as he likes to imagine. He’s just a vicious fantasist who took their lives for no reason other than hate and ego. There was no purpose for what he did other than to make the world darker and scarier. It’s up to us to make it light again.

http://youtu.be/Web007rzSOI- Strange Fruit- Billie Holiday.

Because this song isn’t just a dark part of history. It’s also a dark part of the present.

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Shamima Begum: Sad reacts only- emojis are not for mocking dead babies.

Yesterday it was revealed that Jarrah, the son of Shamima Begum has died at less than three weeks old after he contracted pneumonia.

You can’t have missed that she is the British Citizen who travelled to Syria aged 15 to marry an ISIS soldier after she and two other friends were groomed online. She made the headlines while still pregnant as she wanted to flee ISIS and was attempting to get back home.

I wasn’t going to read the comments when news broke of Jarrah’s death. I really wasn’t. But then I did, hoping I’d be proved wrong and found that things were far worse than I had feared. Even before he had been born there were comments saying that he should be killed, others saying that even he should not be able to come to Britain because he- a helpless infant- was a threat to our national security. Yesterday I saw laugh reacts flood in as rumours that he had died emerged and were then confirmed. Others, while not daring to speak outright hate on a baby have shrugged and muttered. “ Well it’s sad but what about the children killed at the Ariana Grande concert”. Exactly. We are angry and disgusted at their deaths, why are we not angry and disgusted at deaths of babies born in camps because of them? Why are we not angry and disgusted when ISIS operatives groom our children online, lure them abroad to be sexually exploited and murdered.

Several people remarked that she should be investigated for the deaths of her three babies as it was suspicious. I’m not sure where the internet have been imagining Shamima and Jarrah to have been living recently.Whether they have been picturing her in the Hollywood Hills rather than a refugee camp in Northern Syria . Aid workers at the camp where she and her child were living have said that conditions are dire. It is very cold and there are not enough tents, food or blankets. Other children have been dying there from lack of resources, malnutrition and disease and will continue to do so while the conflict rages.

What struck me as odd though, was there there were literally hundreds of comments implying that the child didn’t exist in the first place. There have been pictures and filming of Shamima with her son, and journalists who have interviewed her reporting that they had seen Jarrah when he was a few days old and had been healthy at that time.

So why would so many people be denying that he even existed? They were quick enough to believe him real and deny him entry to the UK when he was still alive. Because it eases discomfort and conscience to now believe he was figment of her imagination, a ploy for her to return home and further proof of her deviousness. It helps them to not have to admit that the media circus they were part of-that Sajid Javid pandered to- meant Jarrah was never given a chance and that was utterly cruel.

If Shamima Begum were to return to the UK I don’t think she’d be much safer than she is in Syria anymore. The Home Secretary and the media have seen to that. People who claim to despise ISIS and their brutality have actively expressed that they hope their soldiers find her and rape and kill her in their next breath. ISIS hate Shamima Begum and want her dead. If you do too, what exactly does that that say?

Happy International Women’s Day- We’re always going to need it.

It’s International Women’s Day, yay! Let’s burn our bras! Or not, because they’re fucking expensive and lots of us are just using tit tape these days. So how are you celebrating? Going to an event, listening to something by your favourite female musician or just telling your favourite lasses that you love them?

No matter. Whether you are going all out, or doing nothing at all, when the subject of IWD comes up you will inevitably hear “Why do you need an International Women’s Day now” or “Won’t it be great when we don’t need one any more”.

Well, here’s the thing: we are always going to need one.

If you enjoy relative freedoms you will be made to feel guilty for paying tribute to such days by a roll of the eyes and a “God what more do you all want”, or the obligatory “Make me a sandwich” (Fun fact. Sandwiches were invented by a male aristocrat, so why not try forcing the rich to make you one instead).

If you look around the world there are certainly marked differences in the emancipation of women. You could argue if you are in the west, like myself, that we have it pretty good compared to the struggles of our sisters around the world who could be imprisoned for dancing or killed for refusing to marry or because they were raped.

We still need it for them. For those who are the very most oppressed. We need it for the women in those places who are standing up alone and fighting it, regardless of the risk posed to themselves and their families for doing so. For every soldier in the YPJ resisting both Daesh and Erdogan.

We need it to celebrate the many battles we have won and recognise how far we have come and to remind ourselves of what we came from.

We need it for the same reason we still need our other days. May Day, Black History Month, Pride, and Miners Galas. Because no matter what progress is made or how much things change, there will always be those who seek t exploit us and try to take away the freedoms that have been won by us and those before us.

Look at the threats to the NHS and the human rights act here in the UK right now. Look at how we are making women who have more than 2 children through rape prove their trauma to the DWP so they can afford to feed them. Look how the rise of Christian fundamentalism in the US and how the Trump administration is currently trying to drag it into a Handmaid’s Tale style dystopia as it enables rapists and denies access to women’s health programmes through defunding. Look at the difference in Iran compared to how it looked before the Islamic revolution in 1979. We think when we win freedoms that they are ours for good. That we always progress. But fights like this are never over as history has shown us time and time again.

So happy International Women’s Day, here’s to many more where we recognise ourselves as warriors and not just as victims of oppression- Remember, it was lasses who kicked off the Russian revolution. There’s so much more to do.

Don’t let the #spycops inquiry go undercover

I have written about the ‘spycops’ scandal before, almost a year ago. If you are not up to speed about this, and you would be forgiven if you aren’t as there has been very little about the issue in the mainstream media of late, spycops are police officers who have infiltrated activist communities causing a catalogue of violations of basic human rights in the process. It made the news when one of them, Mark Kennedy, who was also known as Mark Stone, among others, was discovered to have been in a relationship with a woman for 6 years who had no idea of his identity. Several more officers were then also unmasked, some of who had married and had children with their targets.

So why am I revisiting now? Well because sadly not a great deal has changed in the last year with regards to the inquiry. This is by no means the fault of the participants and their supporters who are fighting fiercely for justice. But since the inquiry has been in the hands of Sir John Mitting who is chairing it, he has done nothing but stall the process and show unbelievable bias toward the police by refusing to allow basic information to be released which would allow the process to move forward under the fallacy that it would put the officers at risk with no care for the women who have already been harmed by their activities. His deliberate sabotage of the process by not allowing live streaming of proceedings as there is with the Grenfell inquiry, forbidding the cover names of officers to be revealed or even the full list of which groups were infiltrated means the inquiry will now not be fully underway until at least 2020.

Then there was the Lush campaign who tried to bring the public’s awareness to the inquiry and what it was about. Instead of being sympathetic to those who’s lives have been turned upside down, who’s hearts have been broken by their actions, it turned into a public backlash against Lush, fuelled by the police who stated it was an anti police campaign. Reactionaries everywhere took it upon themselves to leave negative reviews for Lush and harass their staff. When I went into my local store I was told by one of their employees that when she had went in that morning, she had an officer waiting at the door who told her that she had to take the display down. Which of course they had no powers to make her, but their intimidating behaviour meant they were not left with much choice. Imagine if the public had used that misplaced outrage to support the victims instead. Maybe we wouldn’t be where we are at now.

Andy Coles, another former spycop, who lied about his age and coerced a young and vulnerable animal rights activist is still allowed to serve as a Conservative councillor and the governor of a school as if we would find this acceptable if it were any other kind of sex offender. Now many people look decidedly uncomfortable when I say this and claim I can’t label undercover police having sexual relationships with the people they are spying on without revealing their identity as sex offenders. Here is why I absolutely can say that- It is written in law, in the Sexual Offences Act 1956;

You cannot give informed consent if you have been deceived as to the real identity of your sexual partner and it is ludicrous to suggest that you could.

Tonight at 20:30pm on BBC Wales investigates there will be a documentary, Undercover Cops- abuse of duty about this very thing and I would defy anyone to not feel utter revolt at the stories you will hear. One of the women, Rosa was in a relationship with an officer called Jim Boyling who she had two children with and eventually fled to a women’s refuge because of his abuse. It will be available on iPlayer afterwards, so make it your business to catch it.

There are few important points to bear in mind when talking about this issue with others, particular with respect to some of the things that were said during the Lush campaign. Firstly, this in not a case of a few bad apples who took advantage of their position as is often made out. They didn’t abuse their power, it was entirely tactical and given approval from higher up. Andy Coles even wrote a manual on how to manipulate activists into relationships. Secondly, talking about undercover police abuse is not anti police. For starters there are former spycops who are assisting with the inquiry who are prepared to give evidence. It is about the tactics used by the National Public Order Intelligence Unit and the Special Demonstration Squad, not policing as a whole. I often hear people say we need undercover work to catch organised criminals and child abuse networks. No one is denying there needs to be an element of this to catch such people, however these two units were not involved in that. They were specifically there to target activists, mainly from environmental, animal rights and anarchist groups. Many of who had never committed any crime- which brings me on to my next point. It doesn’t even matter if they did. Some activists may have been breaking some state laws- Social change has never ever happened without it, but it was surely low level. This doesn’t justify what has happened to them in the slightest. Be aware of your Just World fallacy. If you don’t know what that is, look it up. It’s something we are all susceptible to on different levels. It’s a psychological phenomenon whereby when we see suffering or injustice we believe that the victim is on some level responsible or did something that caused it to happen. It’s not always outright victim blaming that we fall into, but studies show we consistently believe that we do this as a way of self protection. Because if it can happen to someone else for no reason, it could happen to us. I saw this a lot last year, with people saying that activists “shouldn’t break the law” (even when they didn’t) or suggesting that the activists must have known about their partners true identity.

It’s important that the people affected by state abuse feel heard and held. Imagine how it would feel to find out your partner, or your best friend was being paid to spy on you, for simply caring about environmental and social problems. Imagine that person fathered your children. We can’t really. We can’t fully understand how isolating and devastating that must be, so we need to be as invested in this as they are. If it is not scrutinised now, it could be someone you love, or even you next. It should never have happened to anyone in the first place. The message we will give is that we accept this abuse of citizens. Share everything you see on the subject and comment to keep it current in a world with a 15 minute attention span. Keeping it in the public eye is important.

Also visit http://www.policespiesoutourlives.org.uk for more information about how you can get involved, be that campaigning or donating to legal costs. We owe it to them and to ourselves to defend civil liberties, fight for the truth to be uncovered and accountability to be applied.

A pill to make you numb, a pill to make you dumb….

We frequently cite the horror stories of the insurance based health care system in the US when we talk about the need to defend the NHS, but the problem that most of us haven’t realised is that it is no longer a philosophical debate about something we might one day ourselves face- it is already starting to seep under the door. I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced it, but needing health care or medication and not being able to get access to it for any reason is a terrifying experience. However, this is a reality that is playing out for an increasing number of people in the UK today.

Last year it emerged that the NHS was to cut free prescriptions for many over the counter medicines. They pitched it to us that ‘wasteful’ prescriptions such as homeopathic remedies were being scrapped to pay for things like cancer treatments, but the list included medicines for conditions such as conjunctivitis and cystitis which can be serious if not treated properly at the earliest onset. Cutting access to medicine is not a new idea. It is already here and has been for years. What this will do is merely embed the policy, normalise it, and lead to further sanctions in the future. I have both epilepsy and asthma. Currently in England, I can receive medication for epilepsy free on the NHS if I needed it (which mercifully I don’t at present), as can diabetics. That isn’t the case for people with asthma, even though all three of these conditions can become life threatening in a matter of seconds. Three years ago a 19 year old woman called Holly Worboys died from an asthma attack as she struggled to afford inhalers on a low income. In a survey by Asthma UK it was found that three quarters of diagnosed asthmatics struggled to pay for their medication. Holly’s death isn’t an isolated one. Over the last few years, the news has been filled with countless stories of people who have lost their lives as a result of benefits sanctions, all with names and loved ones who’s lives have also been ruined from grief.

As with all atrocities committed in the name of austerity, further cuts will only ever affect the people that need it the most, and the latest move is sure to have an immediate, direct impact on the health and wellbeing of thousands of people. Lack of access to early treatment will also lead to more serious long term medical conditions, which ultimately leads to bigger financial implications later on. This is why I have never understood cuts made to early intervention services, be it medicine, domestic abuse, homeless prevention, or mental health. These schemes have always proved to save costs in the long run as they lessen the impact on hospitals, policing, courts and social services.

But I’ve come to realise that this government’s weaponisation of poverty is not just real, it is entirely deliberate. A tired and sick population doesn’t fight too well against the violence they continue to inflict on its citizens and land. Police forces in Manchester and Lancashire police have admitted that they have given intel on disabled people involved in peaceful protest, including the anti-fracking demonstrations which serves no purpose other than to intimidate. We are told constantly how grateful we should be to have freedom of speech, but how free is that when the authorities threaten to remove our means of survival either via benefits or wages if we step out of line? In the age of welfare sanctions, people already living well below the poverty line are being charged £20 in many parts of the country for doctors letters giving them the proof that they need to claim. It was estimated in a 2017 that 120000 people have died as a direct result of austerity, yet still the government ignores this and continues to put further impositions on those who have the least.

Then there is Brexit. The toxic, massively self-destructive drunk uncle who tells increasingly ridiculous stories about his non-existent achievements that you are dreading coming to your wedding. You can’t do anything to stop it because your mam invited him and now no one in the family is speaking to each other through arguing about it. Brexit is set to massively disrupt our access and import of thousands of medicines. But before you put your fingers in your ears and yell “project fear” at me, as indeed I myself might have done a year or so ago, have a look at how the currently system works. Ingredients sourced in India are then transported to factories in Europe to be made into medicines, which then go to wholesalers for distribution. They are not something we can grow in our back gardens in whatever Dig For Victory fantasy Boris Johnson is trying to sell us. If anything it would look more like a Breaking Bad style meth lab in your kitchen as you desperately try to make penicillin from a YouTube video while the kids cry about having to eat nettles for tea again.

At the moment, a prescription costs £8.60 in England. It’s been over a year since I was diagnosed with asthma and I have only just been told about the prescription prepayment certificates that are available by my pharmacist after the medicines I required due to a bad chest infection that nearly put me in hospital came to over £40. The certificates cost £104 a year or £29.10 for three months, but that will cover all the prescriptions you require during that period and is worth getting if you have regular or multiple prescriptions. Some respite maybe, however even this reduced rate is too much for people who are struggling and we are seeing an increase of patients on low incomes admitting that they are going without vital medicine in order to be able to pay for other essentials. Saving it only for ‘emergencies’ as Holly Worboys was trying to do with the last dose of her inhaler. Her family and charities are calling for asthma medication to be made available for free. This I fully support, as no person should lose their life so needlessly. But all prescription charges should be scrapped as they are in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. More so, politicians should be made criminally accountable for creating a situation where supply chains could be halted or delayed because they lied about having any plan that could be actualised effectively. With Brexit it doesn’t matter if you voted leave or remain, no one voted for the catastrophe we are currently facing. Let’s stop with mechanically repeating learned soundbites like “Brexit means Brexit” and “project fear” whenever someone points out facts with obvious concerns that need to be addressed. None of us voted for what is coming and reluctance to admit that the outcome of the referendum is going to be a disaster because we feel it makes us look bad is not a good enough reason to blind ourselves to the facts. The only people looking to benefit are the ones who should be truly ashamed of themselves: The rich politicians and CEO’s who didn’t want to be made to pay more tax and made a catalogue of undeliverable promises to get what they wanted. They will never starve or be denied medicine, because they’ve already created strategies on how to save themselves, but not the rest of us.

Safety is one of the most basic requirements in our hierarchy of needs. It’s not something we should be allowing the state to vote on or health bodies deciding for us. On who is allowed to get well and who doesn’t. Who gets the latest, more effective treatments and who can’t. The health of us as a population is something we should all be concerned with.

Sickness has ripple effects on us all and it is in our interest to look at health collectively. Don’t enable self serving, obnoxious incompetents who couldn’t switch a kettle on by repeating their piss weak catchphrases for them. Hold your representatives accountable, don’t keep calm and stop fighting with your mate who voted the opposite to you so you can direct your anger where it’s needed.

Revolution Time- Liberty https://open.spotify.com/track/3KJwjGjZ3AGQJyx5P7pK8r?si=i2x0wsKVQAO0LKCU9PAAEg

MP’s just voted to give themselves yet another pay rise and we’re just about done with them.

So, for the fourth year in a row, MP’s have voted to award themselves another pay increase. I know I shouldn’t be surprised, and really, I’m not. But each year that they laugh in our faces like this, I do find myself getting angrier. The increase means they will get an extra £1368 a year each from 1st April. This is after the massive 11% rise they gave themselves in 2015, the 1.3% in 2016, 1.4% in 2017 and 1.8% last year. An MP’s salary is now £79,468, a massive £13,730 increase since 2010, and that doesn’t include expenses and allowances on top of that.

Many moons ago, I was a waitress. Scratch that, I was a terrible waitress. Particularly when it came to silver service. One afternoon, aged 17, we had a very large and wealthy party come in, and as I was serving Sunday lunch, I dropped a large piece of broccoli into the open Louis Vuitton handbag of an elderly lady who was dining. Rather than doing the mature thing and admitting my mistake, I simply pushed the bag further under the table with my foot and prayed the woman would blame herself and assume she knocked it in herself.

I was never caught for the misdemeanour, but if I had of been, how do you think my conversation with the owner would have gone?

“You can’t just cover up a mistake like that and blame someone else, it’s bang out of order”

“You’re right. I’ll resign”

“Good. How about I offer you another position instead. Maybe restaurant manager”?

“Sound, yeah. Do I get a pay rise”?

“Well that’s entirely up to you Bandita, what do you think”?

“Aye. We’ll make it a good one too. Those moats don’t clean themselves.”

It sounds ludicrous, but it isn’t a far stretch from what happens in the House Of Commons. In no other employment in the country is it acceptable to drink on the job while making landmark decisions that affect the entire UK and beyond, fall asleep on the middle of meetings and scream abuse at your colleagues from across the room. Nowhere else would you be allowed to employ your spouse for doing absolutely fuck all in order to squeeze more money out of a public purse.

George Osborne would roll in looking like that one kid you used to find trying to lick their own eyelids on the morning of the after party and you and your mates would all realise that not one of you actually knew him and had no idea how he got in. Yelling , jeering and deliberately loud laughing to drown out the opposition’s words is standard behaviour, yet if you did that anywhere else you’d likely be sacked for gross misconduct or a written warning at the very least, while they in the blink of an eye will demand that us proles be ‘civil’ if we dare get ideas above our station and challenge them.

Westminster is the only workplace where they will think nothing of kicking off when cuts to their champagne is suggested, yet will vote in cuts for the disabled and the nations poorest people. Last year taxpayers paid £2.7 million to subsidise bars and restaurants in the House of Commons last year.

A few drinks clearly gives them enough Dutch courage to then look us dead in the eye and say “All in this together”. If they are public servants, why can’t we see their annual performance reviews? Why has Michael Gove had so many roles that we are half expecting to see him in the next Oasis line up? Wouldn’t he have just been deemed unemployable in any other universe by now?

It would be funny if the rest of us weren’t having such a hard time at the moment trying to navigate a very unsure future for the UK. It would be funnier if a homeless man, Gyula Remes, hadn’t died outside Westminster not three months before.

So next time someone at work suggests a dress down Friday or Christmas jumper day for charity, suggest a “behave like an MP in the House Of Commons day” instead. I can’t guarantee you won’t end up slapped or in court for what ensues, but it may hit home what an easy ride we are giving a spoiled kids club with too much power.

Shamima Begum and the trial by media.

Sounds like the weirdest instalment of the Harry Potter series, doesn’t it? Like most of the country I have been following the story of Shamima Begum over the last few weeks, with my take on the issue changing several times over the duration. I’m not here to try and change anyone’s views, but several aspects about the decisions made about her and the public’s reaction to her story have left me deeply unsettled.

As most of us are aware already, Shamima travelled in secret to Syria from London in 2015 when she was 15 years old after she was radicalised online and is now trying to return home. She left with two other students, Amira Abase and Kadiza Sultana after communicating with Aqsa Mahmood, a woman originally from Glasgow who was now living in Syria after also travelling without the knowledge of her family in 2013 when she was 19 years old. Kadiza Sultana is now dead after she was reportedly killed in an air strike aged 17. Kadiza was known to have been trying to escape IS before her death and Amira’s whereabouts are currently unknown.

They are not the first teenage girls to have been recruited to IS, and almost all appear to have met a similar fate. In 2014, two Austrian teenagers, Sabina Selimovic and Samra Kesinovic also traveled to Syria in very similar circumstances. They appeared in Islamic State propaganda websites wearing burkas and carrying machine guns. The girls were reported to have married jihadist fighters and not much more was known about them until a report from a Tunisian woman who had managed to escape IS disclosed she had been kept in sexual slavery with the girls in a house in Syria, to be abused by newly recruited soldiers. Samra later tried to escape but she was caught by IS forces and beaten to death with a hammer aged 17. By this point Sabina was also dead after she was killed during fighting in Raqqa. She was 15 years old. There has also been Sally Jones, who was older when she joined IS and like Aqsa Mahmood was also involved in the recruitment of other young women, as well as encouraging converts in Britain to carry out ‘lone wolf’ attacks on home soil.

On paper it makes no sense why these girls would have left their homes and travelled in secret to a literal war zone in an unfamiliar country to marry unknown fighters in an organisation known for their murderous brutality and horrific treatment of women.

One of the most common arguments I hear is “well I knew right from wrong when I was 15”. That maybe true, but you definitely didn’t always care. Can you say that you never once defied a parent or authority, did something you knew that you shouldn’t and did so in secret? Of course you did. Teenagers are naturally secretive risk takers. It’s a normal part of our development as we’d never leave our families or caretakers side otherwise. I don’t know what you did. Maybe it was underage drinking or sex, maybe you took a bunch of drugs or got yourself an absolutely mortifying tattoo or a bad boyfriend. Who knows, maybe you did all of those things. Now you could argue that none of those things are in the same category as joining a militant terrorist organisation and of course you would be right. But take yourself back to that age for a moment, and throw in some highly sophisticated groomers in there who know just how to manipulate your desire for excitement and belonging, to be a confidante for all your worries and tell you how are amazing you are and far too special for a mediocre life in a materialistic society that hates you. If you think that wouldn’t have worked on you at such a young and vulnerable age, then you are lucky enough to have never encountered such people in your life. They won’t use a head carrying soldier covered in blood to do it. They’ll find someone who looks like you. In Shamima and her friend’s case, that was Aqsa Mahmood. They would have been told how great it was there, how respected by their men they were, free of islamophobia and safe to walk the streets in Islamic dress. They will have been told it wasn’t a bit like the corrupt press made out. “Trust me, I did it. I was scared just like you, but look at me now. My life is beautiful and has meaning and yours can too if you’re brave”.

The next point in Shamima’s trial by media was the disgust at her lack of remorse about the death she has seen, stating that she “wasn’t fazed” by the sight of seeing heads in baskets. Her lack of emotion has the nation outraged, unable to understand how she could be so callous. Out of curiosity, how many heads in baskets have you seen, because I’m twice Shamima’s age and I have seen precisely none. But I have seen trauma, and felt it too, and I know a little bit about how it works.

On a daily basis I have people disclose to me the very worst things that they have seen and experienced. The kind of stories you thought only existed in the very worst of nightmares. Very rarely are these tales told to me with tears and histrionics. The vast majority of the time they are relayed with a blank expression and a deadpan voice. Laughing while they tell you isn’t all that unusual and I don’t care how long you have been in the job, there will never be anything as unnerving as watching a young woman giggling in front of you as she recalls dozens of episodes of physical and sexual abuse. Does she find it funny? Of course not. It’s a nervous reaction, a defence strategy, because when you are repeatedly subjected to trauma your fight and flight responses become rewired. You will react in a way your brain tells you will ensure your survival. Again, how many heads in baskets have you seen? I’ve seen precisely none. I don’t know how I would react if I did, and you can be sure that you don’t either.

If Begum didn’t give you the x-factor style tears and heart wrenching monologue about every single horror she has seen or been subjected to-all the gory bits included- before you will even consider mercy for her or her baby, then I have some bad news for you about how you will view others who don’t fit your criteria of a ‘good victim’. Maybe you scan homeless people for track marks and bottles of buckfast before you consider sparing a few coins because you’re not giving money to a fucking junkie. You demand their story. You want to see war medals and an honourable discharge certificate to make sure they are the right kind of deserving waif to receive your generosity. Maybe it’s the victim of domestic violence that you will condemn for refusing to leave the man who beats her senseless every day, resulting in her terrified children being taken into care because she “chose a man over her bairns”. If I’m wrong, I apologise for my assumption because I’m glad you could show those people compassion and understanding. It’s those out of our comfort zone that need it the most.

Because her interview in the refugee camp in Syria where she is currently is too much to digest, let’s consider her before she ever traveled there. At the point Shamima had communicated knowingly with a notorious IS member, she was already condemned. If she had engaged in conversation that could even slightly be interpreted as dangerous, and her groomers would have ensured that she had, admitting it could have led to the arrest not just of her, but potentially her family and friends too and undoubtedly being put on a watch list. Who exactly could she have gone to for help in those early stages if she had even the slightest doubt about what she was getting herself into. By that point IS had done what all abusers of children do. They had shackled her to them with a secret she could never tell anyone, because she’d already done wrong, she was one of them.

With Shamima, there is no suggestion that she has actually committed any of the atrocities she has witnessed herself, though you’d never know that from reading any comments section of articles about her. So far I’ve seen calls for her to be executed, the Tower Of London appearing to be the preferred venue for this to take place. They asked she was tortured slowly, this while she was still heavily pregnant. Her baby who has since been born, elicits slightly more sympathy, though not as much as you might think looking at the dozens of comments stating that “it” will always be a threat to our country even at a few days old and should never be allowed to step foot in the UK. I’m always baffled by those who call for a slow and sadistic death on people they hate because they inflict slow, sadistic deaths on others, but this unflinching hypocrisy is always present in online conversations where IS comes up. The same people who scream that we shouldn’t allow muslims into the country on a piece about immigration because they want to bring in Sharia law are the same people who will happily call for the hands of thieves to be cut off in the next article down about an old lady being mugged with no sense of awareness whatsoever.

But actions do have consequences. I wouldn’t suggest that Begum should be exempt from this and I haven’t seen anyone else put this forward either. But it’s complex, as we have seen in the grooming gang cases like the one in Rotherham, where girls already in the clutches of the gang will be used to befriend and lure other young girls to the organised parties, some being present while those victims are then subsequently abused and doing nothing to try and stop it. Some do face criminal charges when they play such a part, but it’s not quite as simple to label them innocent victim or ruthless monster is it? If Shamima Begum has not committed any other crime other than membership of a banned organisation, what punishment should befit her given that there is a clear case of grooming?

It’s not that I believe all women who get radicalised like this are all naïve, innocent flowers who cannot be held accountable. Some will know exactly what they were getting themselves in to and what they are trying to get new female children into. I have particular contempt for Sally Jones who I mentioned earlier. She was quite a bit older when she decided to travel to the area, but she also took her small 8 year old son Jojo with her, and it is this that I just cannot get my head around. taking a little boy to such a known, dangerous area when he could have stayed safe with the rest of his family. Since then, pictures of who is believed to be Jojo show him in combat gear with weapons and adult hostages and he was believed to have already been fighting alongside IS militants until his and his mother’s reported deaths by air strike in 2017. Reports that have since been disputed, with some claiming that Jojo or Sally or both could still be alive.

We desperately need to know more about the tactics and resources of IS recruiters and Shamima Begum is a rare chance to gain some of that understanding given that most IS brides who travel from western countries to join them in Syria tend to end up missing or dead pretty quickly. I don’t claim that there are any easy answers. What I am sure of is that everything about this case is less about national security and more of a test about what restrictions we will cheer being put on liberty. It’s easy to do this with Begum. It’s extremely hard to have sympathy for her, with her at best coming off as an entitled clueless brat, and at worst as something dangerous.

How is it that the Home Office can revoke a citizenship in minutes without a full investigation but it can refuse to grant it to windrush citizens who have been living, working and contributing to the country for half a century? Brexit is upon us and we already know that there has been government talk of ‘reviewing’ or repealing the human rights act once we have left the EU, which would no longer be able to enforce it. The implications of that are dark. Despite what right leaning politicians or tabloids the human rights act was not born to protect criminals, rapists and terrorists. It was there to protect ordinary citizens from being abused by those who seek to exert authority over us. Before you applaud its potential repeal, make sure you would be happy for your rights to be stripped away. Because it could be you next much more easily than you think. Anti terror laws that we welcomed after 9/11 have already been used against non violent nanas for sitting in the road in anti-fracking demonstrations and hunt saboteurs, who are actually upholding the law against using animals to rip apart other animals for laughs and social status.

Shamima left the UK at fifteen and is now nineteen. She has just had her third child since leaving, her other children are dead, and she has been pregnant for most of her time in Syria, which gives you some idea of what her life has been like there. Hate her for her perceived indifference to the victims murdered by Islamic State both here and abroad if you must. But if you truly despise IS for their fanatical views and utter disregard for human life and liberty think carefully before you celebrate the government showing you just how easily they can strip you of legislative protections if they see fit and making you a little less free and a little less safe than you were in the interests of their national security.

As I was writing this, this song came on my playlist. I haven’t heard it for years but the lyrics seemed to take on a different meaning in respect of the subject content:

http://youtu.be/Tx6g0hVxCWU – Part Of The Process by Morcheeba