July 3, 2014
Abderakaz Cherif’s two sons left their home in Nice to go fight in Syria as part of an al-Qaeda brigade. According to the father, his two sons told him they were going to a nightclub but never returned home.
“From the moment he left I knew I would never be able to survive this life without my son. I had to get him home safely,” said Cherif. In a radio interview he explained that, “People use religion to persuade youngsters to fight…I told him repeatedly that what was going on in Syria had nothing to do with him and absolutely nothing to do with Islam.” The father added, “Islam is a religion of peace…The fighters in Syria are devils who are tearing each other apart. I believe this is the message that made him decide to come home.”
Cherif’s son was recovering from a gunshot wound in Syria when he spoke with his father who convinced him to escape in the middle of the night and cross the border into Turkey. After seeing his son again Cherif said, “From the way he looked at me, I could tell he felt like he was waking up from a nightmare. The poor boy was totally naive to the situation. He had genuinely believed he was off to protect ordinary Syrians.”
The boy was arrested soon after his return to Nice. However is father argues that he should be “rehabilitated” rather than punished. Cherif hopes his other son will come home, but understands that the boy is fearful of the consequences he will face when he returns. Many other French citizens who left to fight in Syria find themselves in a similar situation. Cherif added, “We all have to ask ourselves the very serious question: are these French youngsters who went to Syria killers, or are they victims?”