Police make Syria plea to UK Muslim women
British counter-terrorism police chiefs are making an unprecedented appeal to Muslim women to urge men against travelling to Syria to possibly fight.
The national campaign for women to intervene follows a string of deaths of men from the UK who were fighting against President Assad's regime. Events in London, Birmingham and Manchester will see police reach out to women to help prevent more deaths. Forty people have been arrested over links to Syria this year, police add. Security chiefs think hundreds of people have gone from the UK to fight in Syria, some of whom have returned.
Reports suggest up to 20 men from Britain are thought to have died in the conflict. Recent deaths have included Crawley father-of-three Abdul Waheed Majeed who became the first British suicide bomber in the war and a teenager from Brighton.
The number of arrests for alleged Syria-related offences during the first three months of the year is almost double those held during the whole of 2013. On Thursday, coordinated events in London, Manchester and Birmingham will bring together counter-terrorism police, officials who work on preventing extremism and women from community groups in an effort to urge others to help stop people travelling to Syria.
This is not about criminalising people it is about preventing tragedies”
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Helen Ball Metropolitan Police Deputy Assistant Commissioner Helen Ball, national coordinator for counter-terrorism at the Metropolitan Police, said she wanted to start a national conversation with women to help protect young people from going to Syria.
Ms Ball said: "We are increasingly concerned about the numbers of young people who have or are intending to travel to Syria to join the conflict.
"We want to ensure that people, particularly women, who are concerned about their loved ones are given enough information about what they can do to prevent this from happening.
"We want to increase their confidence in the police and partners to encourage them to come forward so that we can intervene and help.
"This is not about criminalising people it is about preventing tragedies. We want to inform those who wish to genuinely help the Syrian cause how they can do so safely and legally."
The new strategy includes leaflets to be handed out at ports which spell out the potentially fatal consequences of going to Syria.
Earlier this year, ministers and prosecutors warned that any involvement in fighting in Syria could breach terrorism laws and lead to arrest back home. At least five terrorism-related prosecutions are currently awaiting trial.
The government has also urged Muslim communities to stop sending charity convoys to the region, asking them to work with major aid organisations with experience of war zones. The Charity Commission is investigating at least two organisations amid fears that aid convoys have been used to funnel fighters and resources to jihadist rebels. Michelle Russell, of the Charities Commission, said: "There is a genuine and desperate need for humanitarian assistance to help people affected by the conflict in Syria.
"UK charities and their partners are playing an important role in the delivery of humanitarian aid to Syria and its neighbouring countries.
"We want everyone to make informed choices about which charities to support and how to support them so that they can feel confident that their contribution really will make a difference to the humanitarian effort."
Dominic Casciani BBC, 24/04/2014