As with so much of the mitigating rhetoric that follows the imprisonment of captured British ISIS jihadists, the words of John Letts sit very much at odds with his son's previous murderous statements. How mystifying then, that such a peacenik should end up in the bloody killing-fields of Raqqa. Pictured: John Letts and Sally Lane, the parents of Jack Letts, dubbed "Jihadi Jack". (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)
"This power [to remove citizenship] is one way we can counter the terrorist threat posed by some of the most dangerous individuals and keep our country safe." — UK Home Office spokesperson, August 2019.
Jack Letts, dubbed "Jihadi Jack", the British convert to Islam who travelled to Syria in 2014 to join ISIS, has been stripped of his British citizenship. The former dual-national, whose British mother and Canadian father stand by their son, exchanged his picturesque hometown of Oxford for Raqqa, to join the ranks of ISIS. He is currently awaiting his fate in the custody of Kurdish forces.
Letts, who had previously claimed to be an "enemy of Britain" and had posted on social media messages, such as "his threat to behead a group of young British soldiers on Facebook", now says that he regrets his past misdeeds, and the pain he has caused his parents. "I feel guilty, because I am the reason (my parents) are going through this." He told a Sky News reporter in June, evidently oblivious to the fact that his actions caused a lot more harm than merely upsetting his parents -- both of whom received a suspended prison sentence for -- "making money available for a terrorist purpose".
Separately, Shamima Begum, one of three British schoolgirls who hatched and executed a plan to escape their family homes in East London and head for Syria in 2015, suffered a similar fate in February. Begum, after also having had her citizenship revoked, now languishes in a Syrian refugee camp.
A refugee camp might not have been the outcome Begum or her family desired, but is no doubt preferable to the fate of her school friends and accomplices, Kadiza Sultana, and Amira Abase, both of whom are now dead. Abase was reportedly killed during a Russian airstrike; Sultana, while trying to flee ISIS in an unsuccessful attempt to escape, having apparently had a change of heart.
Both Letts and the three girls cited the suffering of their fellow Muslims at the hands of Syrian President Bashar Assad as the catalyst behind their life-changing decisions to de-camp to the Middle East.
As is the situation with so many British Muslim converts, interfering in other nations' affairs for the sake of the Ummah (worldwide Muslim community), seems an irresistible motive, however badly thought out.
Equally predictable is the repentant U-turn and familial words of defence -- after being captured.
"He [Jack] is a very humane person and he wanted to do something to help." Mr Letts said about his son, then adding, "He is a really kind, funny kid who is very gentle. He is totally non-violent..."
As with so much of the mitigating rhetoric that follows the imprisonment of captured British Muslims, Mr Letts's words sit very much at odds with his son's previous murderous statements. How mystifying then, that such a peacenik should end up in the bloody killing-fields of Raqqa.
A far bigger problem than what to do with the likes of Jack Letts and Shamima Begum is the possibility of missing British ISIS fighters returning and making their presence felt. No matter how heartfelt a plea their parents might make on their behalf after they are captured, their children's real inclinations might best be measured by their actions while they were free to do as they wished.
Andrew Ash is based in the United Kingdom