Saturday 28 May 2022

Former Dutch military chief ‘understands’ Syria fighters’ drive

Former Dutch military chief Pieter van Uhm said in a radio documentary that he understands Dutch youngsters who go to fight with rebel forces in Syria but does not support their vision of the world.

They are youths who ‘one way or another, feel they have to do something to make the world a better place’, the former general is quoted as saying by the Volkskrant. According to the Dutch security service, some 100 Dutch nationals are fighting with rebel forces in Syria.

In the documentary, Van Uhm travelled to a military ceremony in Flanders to try to answer the question whether we should be proud of or mourn young men who go to fight.

In principle, we should be proud if they are fighting out of idealism, said Van Uhm, In Syria, they are fighting against the oppressor Assad and to end the suffering of women and children.

Van Uhm, whose own son died in Afghanistan at the age of 23, said he is aware that some youths going to Syria are ‘looking for adventure or to get away from the family comfort zone.’

‘You can compare the drive of my son and other such young men,’ the Volkskrant quoted him as saying. ‘What cannot be compared is their view of why they are going.’

Asked by the Volkskrant if he stood by these comments in the wake of reports by the Dutch secret service that two Dutch youths had taken part in suicide bombings, Van Uhm said. ‘I cannot accept their methods.’ But he said, it is ‘too easy’ to judge them.

‘We do not ask often enough whether their surroundings and our society have done their best to keep them on the right track,’ he said. ‘You have to try to understand these young people, otherwise you cannot help them.’

The AIVD considers youngsters who return from Syria to be a danger to society and is closely monitoring them.

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