When he was just three years old, Mohammed's parents sent him away from Somalia, which was in the midst of a civil war. He was eight years old when he eventually arrived in England.

"I was just like any other kid from the UK," he reflects."I had friends, I played football, I hung around in the streets. But I grew up without my parents."

Then, as a teenager, he got into trouble with the police and was sentenced to two years in prison.

"In those two years, I began to change. I became religious. I was looking for a sense of belonging," Mohammed explains.

At first, I thought al-Shabab were the good guys. They befriended me. They gave me a way to re-establish my life in Africa.

Mohammed, Former al-Shabab conscript

Having never received British citizenship, Mohammed was deported upon his release from prison. He was 19 when he landed back in Somalia - and into the arms of al-Shabab.

"At first, I thought al-Shabab were the good guys," he says."They befriended me. They gave me a way to re-establish my life in Africa."

Mohammed says he never carried a gun or killed anyone, but when he saw civilians dying in bomb attacks, his view of al-Shabab changed.

"That's when I stopped being al-Shabab," he says."That's when I realised I was a fool."

Mohammed left the group, but being an al-Shabab defector came with its own dangers. He feared that if they found him, they would kill him.

He tried to hide from them in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, which is where he met Fathi, who was born in London but was sent to Somalia to be "re-educated". The two get married, and when 17-year-old Fathi returned to London, she was pregnant.

But, despite it being the city where he grew up, Mohammed could not legally join his wife and child there. So he found himself adrift in a country and culture he didn't fully understand, desperate to be reunited with his wife and child.

Lost Warrior follows the young couple as they navigate global politics and personal relationships in a bid to build a better future for their son.


Filmmakers' Views

by Søren Steen Jespersen and Nasib Farah 

Ever since Nasib and I made the film Warriors From the North in 2014, the public debate about radicalisation has become simplified to such a degree that it actually prevents a deeper understanding of the problem. This is obviously due to the fact that we need to feel and show that we are doing something about this. That we don't just leave it be. Which is understandable, especially in light of the many terror attacks in Europe over the last three years, and the fear that has followed them.

But I think we've been too preoccupied with finding simplified explanations for why this radicalisation happens, namely that the young people in question become radicalised online or in the mosque and they do so because they feel isolated and marginalised. Not that this isn't true, but I believe the truth to be much bigger and endlessly more complex - thus also more interesting.

Lost Warrior filmmakers Nasib Farah and Søren Steen Jespersen [DR Sales]

I hope the story about Mohammed, Fathi and their young son can help add perspective not only to the issue of radicalisation but also the Somali communities in the West. Hopefully, the film will provide insights into the complex mechanisms and cultures that may lead to social isolation and radicalisation - factors which, as the film reveals, are linked to a clash between cultures and between generations within the same culture.

Finally, it is my hope that our film can help contribute to deradicalisation, not only of the young Somalis who are compelled by the idea of fighting for a fundamental interpretation of Islam but also of the way in which we relate to them and to the concept of radicalisation itself. By "we” I am referring to "us", not only as individual human beings but also to the more collective "we" which includes the media, social workers, teachers and decision-makers. I hope that, when watching our film, people will think about whether the world is really as simple, or black and white, as it is often presented to us.

This is the story about a London-Somali family's love in a globalised and conflict-ridden world. It takes place in Mogadishu, London and Nairobi, but it could have taken place anywhere. In the end, Mohammed, Fathi and their families are left with an all-encompassing fear: will these same conditions determine the life of their 2-year-old son, Yassir?

Filmmaker's View

by Nasib Farah

When Søren and I made the documentary Warriors From the North, we wanted to shed light on why young people who grow up in the West become radicalised and are willing to throw away their entire life in order to join a war in a country where they have never even set foot. Many of them end up face to face with the gruesome realities of war, and it hits them hard. Their dreams are crushed, and in that very moment, they realise it’s too late.

Once in the clutch of a cynical terror organisation, it's almost impossible to get out - and they have to risk their lives doing so. And the countries where they grew up do not want them back. Warriors From the North was well received in the Danish-Somali community.

Due to my own Somali background, it was much easier to get representatives from that community involved in the film. Many Danish-Somalis feel they are misrepresented in the Danish media, thus it can be difficult to get them to speak up and participate in the public debate.

As with the main character of Lost Warrior, Mohammed (pictured above), Somali-Danish filmmaker Nasib Farah came to Europe as a refugee minor, unaccompanied by his parents. [Nasib Farah and Søren Steen Jespersen]

Normally, Somali culture is very open and encourages people to express their opinions freely, both privately and publicly. But mainly due to the overall negative portrayal of Somalis in the Danish media, trust is gone and there is a general fear of being misunderstood or of words becoming twisted.

Warriors From the North succeeded in rebuilding some of that trust. Somalis felt that their voices were heard and, as a result, participated more actively in the public debate - as well as in the debates that took place internally in the Somali community.

A lot of time and effort went into getting to know Mohammed, Fathi and their families. Thanks to my own Somali roots, I was able to gain their trust and they allowed us into their lives. They opened up to us and offered their views on radicalisation without fear of being misrepresented in the film.

As a Somali man myself, who came to Denmark as a 12-year-old unaccompanied refugee, I can certainly relate to the young radicalised people. Not because I believe in radicalisation or extremism, but because I understand what makes them vulnerable to radicalisation. These young people are trapped between two countries, two very different cultures and societies. They neither belong here nor there and often carry the heavy burden of war trauma - if not their own, then that which is passed on to them by their parents.

This is what politicians and other public figures too often fail to take into account or to see. Young people who are vulnerable and subject to radicalisation have been misled and neglected. They need support and help to figure out who they are, not prejudice and alienation.

Søren and I put our heart and soul into this film in the hope that it will provide insights into the destinies of these young lost warriors.

Source: Al Jazeera