Families struggle as German Kurds join ISIS in Syria

Der Spiegel reports: A few months before Sedat Aras set off to join the jihad, the young man took down the Kurdish flag which had been hanging on the wall of his bedroom in his family’s home in Hamburg, Germany. “I’m a mujahedeen now,” he said.

Aras’ family reacted with indifference at the time, his older sister Elif recalls. “I thought this was just my brother’s usual nonsense,” she says. “Sedat had been on an Islamist trip for quite a while.” Elif Aras shakes her head, her eyes dry and empty. “I had no idea what havoc this idiocy would wreak,” she says.

In July, her brother took off for Syria together with others holding similar beliefs. German domestic intelligence sources believe the group included around a dozen young jihadists from Hamburg. Sedat’s family are Alevi Kurds and yet he is now fighting on the side of Islamic State (IS), even though it is attacking Kobani, the Kurdish city in Syria that has become the symbol of the war against the Sunni terrorist organization. In his sister’s eyes, Sedat is waging war against his own people.

After her brother disappeared, Elif also left Germany and flew to Istanbul. The 33-year-old says she could no longer take the gossiping of her neighbors in Hamburg or the calls from worried friends. “I blame myself for not having noticed Sedat’s transformation earlier and for not having kept him from leaving,” she says.

The trip to Syria by German-Kurd Sedat Aras, 23, follows a rapid period of radicalization. His story combines the identity crisis experienced by some children born into immigrant families with the seemingly magnetic force exerted by radical Islam.

Many immigrants have had to work very hard to establish themselves and eke out a living for their families in Germany. But suddenly a conflict raging thousands of kilometers away in Syria and Iraq began intruding on their lives. Salafists began recruiting young Muslims in Germany to join the jihad. And so it was that the war in the Middle East also reached immigrants in Germany, driving a wedge between family members here. [Continue reading…]

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