5 Mar 2015

Diane Foley: ‘How could he use his talents for such evil?’

Diane Foley, mother of murdered hostage James Foley, tells Channel 4 News the transformation of model student Mohammed Emwazi to Jihadi John, who is believed to have killed her son, is “frightening”.

Speaking in her first British television interview since the unmasking of the hostage, Diane Foley told Channel 4 News: “that is one of the most frightening parts.. how a promising young person who had many gifts, could use his talents for such evil?”

Yet she says the unmasking of Mohammed Emwazi makes little difference to her: “if it had not been that young man, then I’m afraid it would have been someone else. I think it’s tragic for that young man and his family .. we must do more to protect our young people from the lies that have instilled so much hate and brutality.”

Need for forgiveness

Of the militants involved in hostage taking, Mrs Foley said: “They definitely need to be punished, because their brutality has been horrific, obviously, they have ended many lives. But we also need to forgive one another at some point for the hatred not to keep continuing.”

A video showing the beheading of her journalist son James was released by Islamic State militants on 20 August 2014.

In the video the man who was to be dubbed “Jihadi John” was seen standing, face masked, alongside Foley who was dressed in an orange jumpsuit. Speaking in an English accent he says Foley was being killed because of US airstrikes against Islamic State militants.

Read more: Mohammed Emwazi to Jihadi John: what have we learnt?

On 26 February 2015, Jihadi John was revealed to be Mohammed Emwazi, who had grown up in west London and was described by a former teacher as a “diligent, hardworking lovely young man.”

‘We can do better’

Since her son’s death Mrs Foley has become involved in supporting the families of other hostages through the James W Foley Legacy Foundation. She called for more research into how to negotiate, particularly with radicalised groups, saying “to ignore them until they’re this powerful has not worked out that well.”

She added: “I really wish that our governments had engaged the best of intelligence of Scotland Yard and the FBI early on to negotiate and try to figure out if there was any way to get our citizens out safely – like the other countries did.

“I think we can do better.”

Following his murder in August 2014, James Foley’s parents Diane and John, told Channel 4 News that they had hoped to negotiate his release, but the decision to kill him “had already been made”.

See the interview in full: 'He brought a light to that very dark place'

Diane Foley said her son had wanted to shine a light on the suffering of the people of the Middle East. Speaking on Thursday she called for more mentoring to enable people “to be open to using their talents for good, for peace in the world.”