Friday March 25, 2016

A mom from Molenbeek says she couldn't save her radicalized son

A sign reads "Why?" in English, French and Flemish behind candles and flowers near the Maelbeek metro station, in Brussels on Wednesday evening, March 23, 2016. Bombs exploded Tuesday at Brussels airport and one of the city's metro stations, killing and wounding scores of people, as a European capital was again locked down amid heightened security threats. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

A sign reads "Why?" in English, French and Flemish behind candles and flowers near the Maelbeek metro station, in Brussels on Wednesday evening, March 23, 2016. Bombs exploded Tuesday at Brussels airport and one of the city's metro stations, killing and wounding scores of people, as a European capital was again locked down amid heightened security threats. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner) (The Associated Press)

Listen 10:38

Geraldine Henneghien lost her son four times. 

First, she lost him to recruiters in the poor and isolated Brussels neighbourhood of Molenbeek, then to the war in Syria, and then when she thought she finally convinced him to leave but he ended up staying.

Shortly after that conversation, Henneghien got word of his death.

Her son, Anis Abu Bram, is not alone. Hundreds of young men and women who call Molenbeek home reject friends and family to join groups like ISIS. 

Henneghien says it's the poverty of their community and feelings of exclusion that make young people vulnerable targets for recruiters.

"Sixty percent of the young people in Molenbeek don't have a job and can't get a job because of their backgrounds,"  she says.

Day 6 image by Teun Voeten

Image by social anthropologist and war photographer Teun Voeten.

The trouble started when her son took time off of school. He had his parents' blessing but it came with a catch: he had to work. Anis spent months looking for a job and dealt with constant rejection. His frustration and sense of isolation grew.

"He said I am not accepted in this society" Henneghien says, quoting her son. "They consider me a Moroccan, but when I am in Morocco they consider me a Belgian.  I have no place and I have no future here."

Henneghien knows she raised a good son. She says their conversations about work and even the world's problems were framed in the desire to help people. She also says recruiters used this against him.

"They knew that he wanted to help people. They said if you are Muslim you must help other Muslims," she says.

That was the message that won him over. Anis told his parents he was going to Syria to "help". At first, Henneghien thought he might be with an NGO but it was soon clear he was joining ISIS.

Once Anis left for Syria, Henneghien never saw her Anis again.

Molebeek, through the lens of a resident photographer

As part of our coverage of the Brussels bombings, we speak to photographer Teun Voeten, who has lived in Molenbeek for years, and watched it, through his eyes and his lens, become a centre of militant Muslim recruitment.

Posted by Day 6 on Friday, March 25, 2016

Day 6 also spoke to Teun Voeten, a Belgian social anthropologist and war photographer. Teun moved to Molenbeek in 2005 with high hopes for the neighbourhood's future. 

He and his friends shrugged off its reputation as a poor, closed and monocultural community. They saw that part of Brussels as being on the verge of a vibrant transformation. 

In the above video, pictured with his photographs, Teun Voeten describes how Molenbeek went the other way and why he doesn't think the neighbourhood will change anytime soon.