films that make a difference
In 2011, Sally Evans made a devastating discovery - her eldest son, Thomas aged just 21, had left their home in a Buckinghamshire village and travelled to Somalia join a deadly Islamist terrorist group. Thomas had been recruited to Al Shabaab - an Al Qaeda affiliate, it is the jihadi group behind multiple atrocities in Kenya, including the Westgate shopping attack in which nearly 70 people were killed and 175 injured. Thomas became the only known white British man to join the terror group.
This powerful film documents the daily struggle Sally and her youngest son, Micheal face as they try to reconcile the Thomas they knew - a loving mild-mannered ‘normal teenage lad’ with Abdul Hakim, the jihad-preaching Islamist he has become.
Micheal, who had always been close to his big brother is furious with Thomas and often refuses to speak to him when he calls but Sally, despite being horrified by his views and sickened by the atrocities carried out by his group, refuses to give up on him and seeks the help of a de-radicalisation expert from a Muslim charity, The Active Change Foundation.
Mike Jervis has helped rescue the sons of 37 other families and starts by exploring Thomas’ childhood and early adult years pinpointing the pivotal moments which made him vulnerable to recruitment by extremists in order to formulate a strategy to help Sally draw him back to the UK.
Every news report of both Al Shabaab’s victories and defeats brings extra torment for Sally. “If he died, in one way I suppose…oh God forgive me, it would be easier because then I know that he couldn’t hurt anybody else. But no, it wouldn’t be easier because my son would be gone. But then I guess my son has gone anyway.”
When Thomas sets off on an undisclosed Al Shabaab mission, Sally starts to build a relationship with his 14 year old child bride, Sudea. She discovers that Sudea’s parents opposed the match. Sally manages to contact Sudea’s mother, who has fled Somalia and now lives in Sweden with the rest of the family. Sally is shocked to hear about the violence that Sudea’s mother suffered at the hands of Al Shabaab, and the two women establish a profound bond:-
“You are my sister, we are both victims on this situation. Somalia is in flames, you are hurt, I am hurt…We share the same thing that we’re both heartbroken by our children and their choices. And I’m really sorry for that."
Filmed over a pivotal nine month period with privileged access to the lives of both Micheal and Sally – the film captures the shocking events that unfold and their first-hand reactions as they learn more about Thomas’ exact involvement in Al-Shabaab activity. With stories continuing to break of Brits travelling abroad to fight alongside Islamist terrorists, My Son The Jihadi explores the story of how one young ordinary man became radicalised in Britain and abandoned his family and country with devastating consequences for all of them.