Around 900 British citizens joined ISIS before the group’s self-styled “Caliphate” in Syria and Iraq was crushed. However according to Liam Duffy, a strategic advisor to the Counter Extremism Project (CEP), it would be “foolish” to claim this won’t happen again, like reported by express.co.uk.
He also argued society must stop the “celebritisation” of western ISIS volunteers which has “inverted the victim/aggressor relationship”.
Mr Duffy is author of ‘Western Foreign Fighters and the Yazidi Genocide’, a CEP report published earlier this year.
From 2014 onwards thousands of Yazidis, a small religious community concentrated in Iraq’s Sinjar region, were massacred by ISIS extremists.
Many Yazidi women were forced to become sex slaves for ISIS fighters whilst their children were indoctrinated to become “cubs of the Caliphate”, or future foot soldiers.
Speaking to Express.co.uk Mr Duffy warned British nationals could join jihadi extremists in future conflict zones.
He said: “I don’t see any reason why we won’t see foreign fighters go from Britain, western Europe and North America again.
“I’m not going to say it definitely will happen – we’ve got no idea.
“Every conflict where Sunni Muslims have been engaged, so that gives Al-Qaeda or ISIS and jihadist groups the narrative they need to say that Sunni Muslims are being attacked and oppressed.
“Any time that happened people have gone from this country to fight in those wars.
“I think it would be really silly or foolish to say that can’t happen again and the ISIS phenomenal was just a flash in the pan.”
According to Lord David Pannick QC of the 900 British ISIS volunteers around 40 percent have since returned to the UK.
Another 20 percent were killed during the fighting in Iraq and Syria whilst the rest remain in the region.
Mr Duffy pointed out British extremists have been travelling to join fundamentalist groups in war zones for decades.
He said: “For about 30 years we’ve had foreign fighters, what could broadly be conceived as Islamist or jihadist foreign fighters, travelling to overseas conflict zones.
“So Bosnia, Chechnya, Somalia. The early years of the Iraq war as well a lot of Europeans went and fought there.
“The numbers involved were bigger than we’ve seen before but the phenomenon itself was not new.”
Some of the westerners who joined ISIS have since established significant public and media profiles.
These include Shamima Begum, who left to join the group aged just 15 and has since been stripped of her British citizenship.
Mr Duffy noted the “contrast between the plight of the Yazidis, which is barely covered in the outside world now” and “some of the westerners who joined ISIS, who in my view are being celebratised”.
He continued: “I just wish as much attention was given to the people they tormented as to the tormenters.
“There’s a broader problem as well about how people joined ISIS where we’ve inverted the victim/aggressor relationship a little bit to make these people [western ISIS fighters] sound more like the victims.
“They were recruited therefore they’ve a victim which is really morally unserious.
“What happened to the Yazidis doesn’t fit neatly into a narrative that can be politicised or weaponised. In some ways it’s the wrong type of victim, the wrong type of perpetrator.”