There are a son, his mother, and of hundreds of kilometres between them. But the two of them are not separated by an Erasmus exchange, nor by a work experience abroad: they are separated by war. The atrocious clash between men who shed blood, the plastic representation of absolute evil, hatred, and brutality. We are familiar with this scene: a young and determined man, bewitched by an ideal, leaves everything, even his family, to go to fight. His parents are consumed by concerns, await news, wait for the conflict to finish. They hope that their “child” will come back alive, that he will not to be injured, that he will not get ill. But he is far away, too far away. And they must wait to receive a letter, a message, a text message or a selfie to reassure them, at least for a little while.
The smartphone rings. “Hi mom, I hear the bombs of the raid, I pray and I’m afraid”. He is in Syria, enlisted among the ISIS men. His mother lives in France. “How are you? I am glad to hear from you. You know, I was worried” recites the chat of terror published by the French newspaper Le Figaro. “Don’t worry – he answers – I am safe but, yes, there have been bombings”. Or else: “How did it happen? Where were you?”. The answer: “I’m safe, but I’m afraid”. The woman goggles. For the first since he left, her son manifests his fragility. A mix of fears and hopes pushed their way in her mind. What if he’s changing his mind? What if the intensification of the air raids against the ISIS stations were helping to make him feel homesick? The mother does not miss the opportunity. “Fear? What did you do? Were you able to protect yourself?” His reply is disarming: “You know, in these cases I begin to pray”.
Since the beginning of the raids, dozens of western families experience contrasting emotions. On the one hand, the bombs of the coalition, now also the Russian ones, suggest the possibility of a rapid outcome of the war. On the other hand, there is inevitable anxiety for their children exposed to rockets, explosions, and battles. “Obviously, on that point, public opinions are favourable. Rationally we are favourable as well, but in our heart…our children are there,” tells the lady to the newspaper. According to the last survey, about 6.000 European citizens are fighting in Syria, split between Al Nusra’s front, Al Qaeda affiliates, and the Caliphate. There are thought to be 700 Frenchmen, 1.200 Englishmen, about one hundred come from Spain, 600 from Germany, more than 400 from the Scandinavian countries and at least 87 from Italy.
Are frequent cases in which they keep contacts alive. “We talk almost every day, often several times a day,” explains Ve’ronique Roy, whose 23 year-old son, Fe’lix, a French citizen who converted to Islam and fled to Syria a year ago. At the beginning, the young man had started to flood the smartphones of his family members with suras or verses from the Qur’an. His mother replied with quotes from Mandela, Socrates or Camus. Until the day when Fe’lix appeared more sectarian: “Meditate on sacred texts”, he said. But Ve’ronique did not bent: “There is nothing we can do with your doctrine. Do not try to change us”. Then followed radio silence, for a long time. A slap in the face of a parent’s unconditional love. Till a new message, this time a softer one. “Dad, mom, hello, how are you? What about your health and jobs?”
In the Figaro‘s chilling account, there is also the last communication of another young man: “I tell you goodbye. They are taking me to Iraq…” Translation, according to the newspaper: “I’ve been selected for a suicide bombing”. The jihadists choose the weakest, the sick, those who are good at little or nothing, testify some family members. For one of them, there are no doubts: “For those people dazzled by God, the ‘good’ Muslim must respect his parents until death. This is why our children are allowed to communicate with us”. But messages can be followed also by long silences. And many parents fear the worst. Sometimes the “emirs” themselves communicate the news to the parents. “Your son (followed by the name of the fighter) is dead”. A last tragic and violent text. Hope fades. Once again, war has broken the tender heart of a mother.