Many young French jihadist fighters who joined the Islamic State militants have started questioning what they are really doing with them. Their lawyers say they want to come home but dread possible criminal charges, France’s Le Figaro has reported.
"If I go back to France, what will happen to me? Can I avoid prison? "- these are the questions young jihadists ask their lawyers and families. Their messages were exclusively leaked to France’s Le Figaro newspaper which says that it contacted the extremists’ lawyers.
Some of the "IS newbies” complain they have been misled into journeying to the Middle East.
"I have done almost nothing except distributing clothes and food. I also helped clean weapons and transported the bodies of fighters killed in the clashes. Winter is beginning. It's getting very hard," wrote one of the militants from a base in Aleppo in northern Syria.
Some messages look like they have been written by homesick schoolboys who are waiting for their moms in summer camp rather than brutal extremists responsible for mass executions of innocent civilians.
"I'm sick and tired [of being here]. My iPod does not work here. I have got to come home!”
"I'm tired. They make me do the dishes."
"They want to send me to the front but I do not know how to fight …"
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A group of French lawyers are currently working with the "lost” jihadists, trying to find a way for them to return safely to France.
"We have made contacts with the police and judicial authorities [in France] but it’s a hyper-sensitive subject,” one lawyer told Le Figaro. "Everybody grasps that the longer these people stay out there, the more they become time bombs when they return.”
"But no one wants the risk of having an official policy to encourage the disillusioned ones to come back. Imagine that one of these ex-jihadists is involved in a terrorist attack in France?”
France is one of the main "sources” of foreign fighters for Islamic State. In September France’s Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said that about 930 French residents and citizens, including 60 women, are either already fighting in Iraq and Syria or are planning to go there.
The Paris prosecutor's office said in November that 1,100 people have been placed under surveillance, and at least 95 people face charges.
France is trying to decide what to do with returning jihadists when and if they come back.
On November 13 the country’s authorities jailed the first jihadist to return from Syria. Flavien Moreau travelled to the conflict-torn country in 2012, and was sentenced to seven years in prison despite claiming he spent just 12 days in Syria.
Unlike France, Denmark has introduced a rehabilitation program which gives the fighters from its country an escape route. It also helps them to get life back on track without the threat of prosecution.