That a young UK Greek Cypriot allegedly went to Syria to fight for the “Islamic State”, is the last thing we expected to hear. Stefan Aristidou, who grew up in Gordon Hill in Enfield, on a tree-lined street, close to the Chase Farm hospital, in middle-class surroundings, landed at Larnaca airport on 5 April 2015 and seven days later went missing.
Despite their desperate appeals through missing persons charities and on social media, his family heard nothing from him for two years. This week Stefan resurfaced in the Turkish town of Kilis, three miles from the Syrian border and around 43 miles from Aleppo.
Aristidou is understood to have told Turkish authorities that he had travelled to Syria not to fight with any group but to “settle” in Raqqa, the de facto capital of the “Islamic State”. He was picked up together with a British woman of Bangladeshi origin, who was identified as his wife, and American Kary Paul Kleman, from Florida.
A spokeswoman for the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) said: “We are in contact with the Turkish authorities following the detention of a British man on the Turkey/Syria border.”
According to The Guardian, “around 850 so-called foreign fighters have travelled from the UK to Syria and Iraq to fight with Islamic State or other jihadi groups such as al-Nusra Front, and in some cases to join the civil war against the regime of the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad”. It is believed that around half of these fighters have returned to the UK and around 200 have died.
Stefan Aristidou lived with his mother, Maria, a complementary therapist who is working towards a PhD, and sister Stasia, who works for a major oil firm. The family have lived in the semi-detached house for more than 20 years. His father, Aristos, who works for a telecoms utility firm, moved out of the family home after he and his wife separated, but he still lives in London.
Neighbours reported that shortly before going missing Stefan changed his style of clothing, adopting Islamic dress, and started attending a mosque. Maria and Stasia were reported as “quiet neighbours” and never spoke about Stefan after he went missing.
The family declined to comment. Stasia, through her public Instagram account, frequently published photos of her brother with messages describing her feelings about his disappearance.
Shortly after he went missing, the family worked with the Lucie Blackman Trust, a charity set up to help relatives of missing or murdered people overseas, to launch an appeal for Stefan’s whereabouts. The organisation, founded by the family of Lucie Blackman, who was murdered in Japan in 2000, described him as around 5ft 4in tall and of slim build, and said he had not been heard from since 12 April 2015. After it learned of Aristidou’s arrest, the appeal was taken down.