‘You will die alone,’ new French campaign warns jihadists
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"You will discover hell on earth, and will die alone" – that is the stark message from the French government in a new social media campaign aimed at discouraging would-be jihadists from joining Islamist fighters in Iraq and Syria.
The government on Wednesday unveiled a short video and a website designed to dissuade potential jihadists, who are often targeted by recruiters using slickly produced clips and social media.
In the fast-paced two-minute montage, an unnamed recruiter approaches a potential jihadist on Facebook, noting his interest in the Syrian conflict and asking if he would like to join like-minded friends fighting “over there”.
The first video to appear on www.stop-djihadisme.gouv.fr features a series of typical promises made by jihadist recruiters, followed by an opposing view of the "reality" as interpreted by the government – all against a graphic backdrop of crucifixions, headless corpses and bodies being thrown into pits.
"They tell you, 'Join us and come help the children of Syria'," the text reads. "In reality you will be complicit in the massacre of civilians."
It goes on to show a series of jihadist recruitment statements superimposed over footage of militant executions, crucifixions, children suffering and women crying.
“"They tell you: ‘Sacrifice yourself at our side and you’ll defend a noble cause.' In reality, you will discover hell on earth and will die alone, far from home,” the statements read.
Other messages are directed towards women.
"They tell you: 'Come start a family with one of our heroes.' In reality you will raise your children in war and terror."
The website is an attempt by the French government to counter the sophisticated recruiting efforts of jihadist groups that have helped encourage thousands of European citizens to leave for Syria and Iraq in recent years.
The site also features sections such as "Understanding the terrorist threat" and "Decrypting jihadist propaganda", featuring expert interviews, historic explainers and links to more detailed information as well as a hotline.
Among the advice to young people are ways of spotting early signs of an unhealthy interest in jihadism: "Watch out for friends who become more distant and stop listening to music."
It remains to be seen whether a government-sponsored message will carry much weight with radicals who consider the French state to be apostate, but those behind the campaign remain confident.
"We will broadcast this video widely on social networks in order to reach the maximum number of young people vulnerable to these calls. We hope it will shock them," said Christian Gravel, head of the government's communications department.
"And the site offers solutions and help for young people, their families and their friends."
The site and new video are the latest moves in a renewed French effort to counter jihadist ideology and thwart future attacks in the wake of a series of attacks that left 17 people dead in early January. The government estimates that some 1,200 French residents or nationals are involved in jihadist activities and that almost a thousand have travelled to Syria or Iraq or are planning to – more than those from any other Western nation.
A pilot programme to stop young people from leaving for Syria was launched late last year.
The government has also asked a rights group representing the victims of terror attacks to help prevent jihadist recruitment in prisons, which have become a hotbed of discontent and radicalisation.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)
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