From the German province in the war in Syria

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In 2013, a group of young men from the small town of Dinslaken-Lohberg in the Ruhr area moved to the Syria war, to fight for the IS. What traces did this leave? A local visit by Esther Felden.

The mistrust runs deep. The few people who, in spite of the bad weather this evening out, follow the slow-moving car with their eyes. “This is normal here in Lohberg,” explains driver Önay Duranöz: “Everyone who comes through here, it is an object of considerable suspicion. Especially, if it is a Stranger.”

Omar Chengafe in the back seat nods. Lohberg was a withdrawn, for outsiders, it is often difficult penetrable world. And that has a lot to do with what happened a few years ago in the 6,000-resident community at the edge of the city of Dinslaken. Dinslaken is located in the most populous state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW). The city is part of the Ruhr area and has a total of around 70,000 inhabitants.

The number of inhabitants sounds more like small-town Idyll, but the Name of Dinslaken-Lohberg is 2013 suddenly, beyond the borders of Germany reputation: as a Salafist focal point. As a breeding ground for militant extremism.

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German jihadists from Dinslaken

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German jihadists from Dinslaken

From the former mining village more than twenty young men went back in several stages, according to the country’s constitutional protection of NRW as a God warrior, called in the alleged Jihad. You gave yourself the name “Lohberger Brigade” and fought in Syria and Iraq for the Al-Nusra Front and later the Islamic state. The traveled were German converts, but especially sons from immigrant families.

Almost half of the Lohberger population has foreign roots. Most of the families come from Turkey. The first came in the 1950s, to be here as guest workers in the mining industry a better existence.

Two angles on a dark Chapter

After the eye-catching exit wave in the Middle East in droves, journalists appeared in Dinslaken-Lohberg, driven by the question of how such a thing could, of all things, happen in the West German province. Önay Duranöz and Omar Chengafe still remember very well at this time. They were from different perspectives of the developments of the witnesses.

Omar Chengafe today is early 20’s and studied social pedagogy in Dortmund. The fashionably-dressed young man with the short Beard grew up in the city centre of Dinslaken. But he has many friends in Lohberg. The son of Moroccan parents, comes from a devout Muslim family. His father was a long time in the Board of Directors of the Arrahma mosque in the Dinslaken city centre.

Omar Chengafe knew the members of the Lohberger Brigade

Duranöz on the other hand, has Turkish roots. He is late 30’s, a big man who exudes a mixture of tranquillity and a rough warmth. The social worker came in 2011 as a “foreign body” to Lohberg, he says. He he grew up just around 20 miles away in the Ruhr metropolis, Duisburg, Germany.

In the eight years that he worked in Lohberg, he was for many families an important point of contact. As an employee of the German child protection Federation in 2013 he took on the newly installed Items in a youth district Manager. Its most important task: to support the young people in Lohberg in the Transition from school to working life.

Radicalized – in the midst of Dinslaken

We arrived by car in the heart of Lohberg. Duranöz passes the Central Johann place. Then we turn the corner and stop in front of the so-called single home. There unmarried miners lived in the past, now the brick building houses a culture centre and several clubs. Both places played a Central role in the history of “Lohberger Brigade”.

On John’s place, the young people of the town met at the time, every day, in part, to the boredom of hanging out, told Duranöz. None of them have had a job. As in 2005, the local coal mine was closed, and several thousand jobs vanished, so did prospects for the future.

Önay Duranöz was from the “foreign body” to the person of trust for many Lohberger

About every fourth young Lohberger was unemployed, as Mustafa T. appeared regularly on John’s place. The man who succeeded in Lohberg within a few months of an extremist cell.

Önay Duranöz remembers his only direct encounter with him: “He was sitting there, and with him a few young people I knew were.” He will be joined in conversation, and had seen the T. exhorted the youth to show respect and to be polite to an Older member: “He said, for example, that you should wear old women shopping bags from the supermarket to home.” His first impression had been positive, he admits: “I thought: Wow, there’s a young man, the young people hear and the great things said.”

T. comes from a in Lohberg-respected Turkish family, the father was a member of the Board of Directors of the local Ditib mosque. A good deal for the children, many people thought adults. In the summer of 2011, Mustafa T. founded with the urban permit an “education Association” and rented for rooms in the nearby single home. There he met with his growing following.

Market John’s place in Dinslaken-Lohberg

The 30 young men, the group comprised a total of, the NRW protection of the Constitution at the request of the German wave. At the Meeting, it went to issues such as the exclusion of Muslims within the German majority society and the growing Islamophobia, signs, Önay Duranöz and Omar Chengafe, while we walk through the streets of Lohberg.

Only apparent Idyll

In the former colliery settlement of pretty houses with front gardens. The street names remind us of earlier times, when the Lohberg colliery was still in operation: the mine road, the Bay road or the path. In the path of the single home is where Mustafa T. had rented his club room.

Omar Chengafe was in the beginning of time itself at the Meetings of the group. He found it first, positively, that there was once a new leisure offer for young Muslims: “those were guys off the street wanted. You have searched for a meaning, and then of Religion.” Soon, however, he was no longer in the “education Association” because he had a queasy feeling: “The evidence that this is really going in a very wrong direction, were becoming clearer and clearer.”

His liberal parents gave him protected from Mustafa T., Omar is convinced. Other young people were, however, easy prey: “they fit into the scheme, were hopeless and prone to hatred. Has been specifically stoked.”

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