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Parents of Belgium's ISIS recruits search for comfort, understanding

ISIS has recruited so many young men from Belgium that there is now a support group for their parents.

"It's an association with only parents of children and young people who went to Syria," says Geraldine Henneghien, the mother of a dead ISIS fighter and the founder of the group. "There are fathers. Often they don't speak about fathers, but we have fathers in our association, and there are mothers. We have mothers from Brussels, from Vilvoorde, from Chièvres, from Genk, from Antwerp ... from all over Belgium."

They are mothers and fathers who share the same pain, the same regret, the same shame. But they are also different, when you take a closer look. "You have Catholic families. You have Muslim families. You have the 50 percent-Belgian families," Henneghien explains. "There is not just one profile for the young who went to Syria."

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ISIS recruiters prey on young people in particular and they do it well. Belgium now has more citizens fighting in Syria, per capita, than any other European country. And the majority of those jihadi fighters are between 18 and 29 years old. Now, countless Belgian parents, many of whom tried desperately to keep their children from leaving, are left with a deep hurt they can't publicly voice.

"It is very difficult because when you want to talk to somebody, you are very judged," explains Henneghien. "That was the beginning of the association. You may cry. You may speak. It was very helpful for me."

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Bilal Hadfi

And she's not alone. The group now also includes the mother of 20-year-old Paris attacker Bilal Hadfi, who blew himself up with a suicide vest outside the Stade de France in November 2015.

"At the beginning, we were 10 parents," Henneghien says. "Now we are 40."

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