YOUNG VOICES

UK's Airstrikes On Islamic State Will Just Radicalise Even More Youths, According To These Four Young Syrians

07/12/2015 09:13 GMT | Updated 07/12/2015 12:59 GMT

Launching airstrikes in Syria will only radicalise more youths and bring an increasing amount of extremism and instability to an already war-torn country, four young Syrians have said.

Speaking to The Huffington Post UK, 21-year-old Fatima Al Ahmad and Jomana Al-Ahmad, 24, both from Idlib, and 25-year-old pharmacist Razan and Ranya Al-akraa, 20, from Homs, said extending military action into Syria was the wrong decision.

After a 10 hour debate on Wednesday, MPs voted to attack Islamic State forces in Syria, with RAF dispatching its pilots mere hours after the decision was made.

HuffPost UK spoke to the youths, who all live in London, about just what they think the implications will be for their home country.

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An RAF Tornado GR4 comes into land through the heat haze, at RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus, as it returns to the base after carrying out some of the first British bombing runs over Syria.

Was launching airstrikes in Syria the right decision?

Jomana: No, absolutely not. The government has failed to understand that additional bombardment will only harm more civilians and will not have any effective results in eliminating Isis. The Russian airstrikes have claimed that they will also target Isis in support of Assad but have only caused more destruction and made matters worse.

Ranya: I don’t think the UK was right to launch the airstrikes at all, I think this decision will be one with terrible results.

Fatima: No. For over four years, Syria has seen strikes launched by the Assad regime, its sectarian allies and Russia, that destroyed the lives of millions and displaced even more millions.

The last thing Syrians need is to see a small part of a more complex problem bombed. The more that countries continue to direct military measures towards Isis, the more Assad and his allies gain legitimacy and freedom to continue to bomb Syrians and the opposition protecting them to oblivion.

Razan: No, not now and not ever. The same way they voted no to bombing Assad after the brutal chemical massacre in Damascus suburbs, we expected a no here too.

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A pilot waves from the cockpit as RAF Tornados return to RAF Akrotiri after a sortie on December 3, 2015 in Akrotiri, Cyprus

What are the implications of extending military action into Syria?

Ranya: Years ago the Syrian people called on foreign intervention to create a no fly zone, or a safe buffer zone from the Syrian regime's aeroplanes [which were] dropping bombs, yet the British government did not respond to this. Now, after four years of civil war, they have decided to launch airstrikes.

The implications of this are that more innocent civilians will be killed. The people in Syria have already suffered under the bombing of the Assad forces, more than 250,000 people have been killed already, this number is rising, and now the British government will be directly responsible for adding to this huge death toll. The airstrikes mean Britain will be contributing to enlarging the scale of the war in Syria, and allowing it to grow further and further.

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Jomana: More extremism, and more instability to the country. Additional thousands of innocent civilians will lose their lives and families and will be forced to flee their homes, adding to the devastating refugee crises which is already the biggest one in recent history.

Fatima: Civilians will die. Syrian youth will be at even greater risk of radicalisation. Isis ideology will strengthen. Europe will be at greater risk of being the target of terror attacks. Syrians will continue to flee the country in thousands. And the Assad regime continues to be given a lifeline.

Razan: Daesh is more powerful than we think and is funded by countries the UK has very good ties with. Bombing Isis will bring more death to civilians in Syria. Whatever proper strikes the British government talks about, we can't trust that. They're just a new player in what seems to be a playground in Syria.

Our families have suffered since 2011. They were displaced in 2012 - before Isis even existed. Assad killed and raped and detained and tortured [people with] his regime and militia. My own fiancé was detained and tortured for his medical work.

My dad's brother and son were tortured to death as they crossed a regime checkpoint. My friend was tortured then beheaded by regime militia. Why is it not a crime on Assads part? Isis was given the attention it wanted and to me it's winning this battle when we need to be winning it.

I also ask the public to think, if Assad had been removed earlier, Syria wouldn't have become a lost state where everyone and anyone can come [and] play. Assad is the sole reason Syria is in what it is today. He is the sole reason Isis and others grew and expanded.

Oh, and we will make more refugees. Seeing as that was an issue for Mr Cameron, he should now be opening his borders to more Syrians as he forces more to flee their homes.

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Women who had to flee their homes because of the air attacks from the Assad regime and Russia are seen near their children as they rest on their way to Turkey border in Lattakia, Syria on December 2, 2015

Are airstrikes the best way of defeating Isis?

Ranya: I do not think this is the best way of defeating Isis, airstrikes on Syria will only exacerbate the problem. Fighting fire with fire never defeats the core problem.

The reason Isis exists in Syria is because Bashar Al-Assad.. responded to the requests of Syrians for democracy and freedom with sheer brutality and force. The response of the Syrian military towards the civilians.. tore Syria apart, and allowed for the rise of extremist terrorist groups such as Isis.

Britain's past experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan should have taught the lesson that going to war will not achieve the desired results, instead it will destroy a country further and deepen the problem of extremism.

Fatima: Bombing Isis will make it stronger. It will give this group more incentive to remain in Syria, to recruit, to instigate terror attacks worldwide, to become more extreme, and to feed the false narrative that they are being punished for being anti-Assad.

The best way to defeat Isis is to remove Assad and his entire regime. If Assad is stopped, Syrians themselves can drive out Isis and resist them as they have done. Syrian rebel groups drove out Isis from towns like Atareb and Saraqeb in the north and large parts of Idlib and Aleppo some time ago.

They can stop Isis, but not when Assad is bombarding them daily with barrel bombs. Not when sectarian militias are sent in their thousands to kill civilians and to fight the opposition. Not when Russia and Iran continue to fund Assad's crimes. Remove the root causes, and strengthen the opposition; that is how you defeat Isis.

Jomana: Target Assad who was the cause in allowing groups like Isis to infiltrate Syria and thrive there, and a military support to the moderate Free Syrian Army fighters who are collectively working to eliminate Isis and remove Assad, but are not able to do so effectively due to the constant bombardment of the Assad-backed Russian air strikes.

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A damaged house is seen at a Turkmen village in the Bayirbucak region of Lattakia, Syria. Areas in Bayirbucak where Assad and Russia's warplanes have targeted civilian residential areas with air attacks have become ghost towns.

Do you still have friends and family in Syria?

Razan:Yes and yes. Hard working British Syrians have so much family inside Syria and our government in Britain didn't listen to us when we said don't bomb Syria.

Fatima: I have family in Idlib, none in Raqqa, but all Syrians are my family. It is enough that Syrians have had to endure seeing a beautiful revolution calculatingly destroyed, hijacked, crushed by Assad and counter-revolutionary forces.

It's enough that they have been through unimaginable suffering. The last thing Syrians want is more bombing. The damage that is being inflicted will take decades to mend. And believe me, Syrians would rather the world leave Syria alone than to take measures that continue to legitimise Assad's rule.

Jomana: I have extended family members who are living under constant bombardment, many have managed to flee to neighbouring countries, however, many are still struggling to survive the day to day bombardment, my family has suffered greatly from family loss and instability and the ongoing war will only make the situation worse for them.

Ranya:I have many family members and friends in Syria. I am worried for their safety every day as I never know if they will be the target of a shell, or a rocket, or if a sniper bullet will kill them. We have already lost family members in the last few years of the war.

Today my worry for them is even greater, as now not only could they be killed by a Syrian government bomb, or Isis forces, but by British government bombs too.

Britain's first air strike on Syria