Whereas it took me the best part of half a century to find the love of my life, this particular Jihadist fighter needed just 240 hours to fall in love, in the middle of a desert, with an underage schoolgirl from Bethnal Green, disguised as representing an Arabian version of the Buddhist nirvana. Ten days are all it took for Dutch-born Jago Riedijk to marry British teenager Shamima Begum. He knew that she was underage, but it mattered not because this was for life and far beyond.
After having dreamed about his exile to Syria, Jago Riedijk is now dreaming about the humid dikes of the Netherlands, a country where you have more chance of being knocked down by a bicycle than killed by a mortar. The Dutch authorities are only prepared to consider helping him return to the Netherlands if he reports to a Dutch embassy in Turkey or Iraq. If he does return, he faces a 6-year prison sentence for having been found guilty of belonging to a terrorist organisation that was planning a firework display in Arnhem’s city centre. That’s assuming that he doesn’t have to stand trial in Iraq and get executed for his misdemeanours, the very same day.
Riedijk claims to have left the Netherlands for Syria in 2014, in order to help the Syrian population fight against president Assad. It was the noble thing to do, and it was a dream so different to the boredom he was enduring in Arnhem. He left for Syria in October 2014, and the fact that he didn’t even manage to see a single video of Isis victims being beheaded is quite surprising. If he’s anything like the youths of today, and my son in particular, he would have been more than likely to have spent most daylight hours Allah had given him, watching YouTube videos.
The interview published in the Dutch newspaper Algemeen Dagblad, apart from making me want to go to the bathroom, really made me see how we are all human and capable of making mistakes. As long as we know that, and we feel sorry for ourselves and apologize, then it’s OK.
But between bouts of pedophilia, Jago Riedijk had a really tough time in Syria, being mistaken for a Dutch spy, and sent to prison where he was tortured.
It was hell, there. The guards were constantly finding an excuse to abuse you. You were tortured, left to starve. I was locked up for weeks, without knowing why. – Jago Riedijk
And while Jago was being tickled, deprived of pudding and locked away in a cupboard, the Yazidi’s were having fun. Life sucks, doesn’t it.
But even in the best love stories there’s always a hitch. In this one the love shown by the woman may not be just quite as strong as that shown by the man.
I want to go back to the Netherlands. That is my dream […] but to leave my wife and child in Syria, no way! – Jago Riedijk
But I just want to come home to have my child. I’ll do anything required just to be at home and live quietly with my child. – Shamima Begum
She doesn’t mention her husband, although she does admit that she, “loves him very much.” Fate would have it that the child be no longer part of the equation. It will be interesting to see if one, the other, or both, return to their native countries, and if they will do so alone.
Meanwhile, back in The Hague and London, the respective governments of the two lovebirds must show that they have just as much moral leadership as political will. Shamima Begum didn’t find it evil to see severed heads in a rubbish bin.The baby was just born in the wrong place, to the wrong mother, and there is no need for us to feel sorry or guilty. Jago Riedijk was no silly teenager when he left for Syria, and had every opportunity to at least read about the beheading of 75 Syrian solders and journalist James Foley, amongst others who were brutally executed before he left for Syria.
In true Kantian fashion, there are certain principles that we must stand by, no matter what the consequences are. Jago Riedijk and Shamima Begum cannot wage war against democracies and then ask to return to, and be protected by, the very same democracies they were fighting against. It’s more a question of, “Stay where you are and we will forget,” than, “Come back home, all is forgiven.”