The International Observatory of Human Rights (IOHR) brought together on Monday the 30th of April 2018 at King’s College London, world renowned counter-terrorism experts from 9 nations, a reformed former extremist and a US journalist who was kidnapped by the Al Nusra Front, a former Al Qaeda affiliate.
This event initiated the launch of the International Initiative on the Prevention and Countering of Radicalism and Extremism.
The speakers presented their work separately on the stage and participated in three panels that mainly focused on extremism worldwide, strategies in dealing with terrorism in their respective countries, and what strategies are most effective in countering radicalisation, rehabilitation and prevention.
Mr. Hanif Qadir, a reformed former member of Al Qaeda and Chief Executive Officer of the Active Change Foundation, which is part of the UK government-run “Prevent” program designed to save vulnerable people, chaired the event and led the discussion.
“Do we really know what drives extremism? Do we have the right approach and should we give a lot more time and resources to rehabilitation and disengagement?” said Mr. Qadir.
US journalist and author Mr. Theo Padnos who was kidnapped in 2012 by the Al Nusra Front, a former Al Qaeda affiliate in Syria, talked about the suffering of the Syrian people, the brutality of the captors who tortured him and the importance of de-radicalisation and rehabilitation of returning fighters.
“You can’t kill them all. It must be handled on a cases-by-case basis. Syria is like a big haunted house, falling apart. Before the war, it was beautiful.” said Padnos, adding that he hopes to travel to Syria again in the near future.
Mr. Ian Larnder, Former Chief Superintendent of the Metropolitan Police spoke about the need for working with communities saying, “Police will not defeat terrorism, communities will defeat terrorism.”
Mr. Simon Cornwall, the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Advisor to Central Asia stressed the importance of giving extremists a chance to disengage and the role of non-governmental organisations and reformists such as Hanif Qadir into dialogue.
“Of all the terrorists I spoke to 99% percent of them have issues with identity. Of 160 prisoners we interviewed only two said religion pulled them in. Many had fixations about what was going on in places such as Palestine, Israel, or Bosnia and believed in conspiracy theories. They listened to stations like Al Jazeera and Russian networks. They are not watching Sky, Fox, BBC — balanced media that we have.” said Cornwall.
“Humanity should give them the opportunity to change. To right what they have done wrong.” he added.
The International Observatory of Human Rights aims to forward its new initiative through promoting the fundamental values of “Not Born A Radical” campaign addressing the root causes of radicalisation and providing a progressive platform for educating and empowering the youth, engaging returning fighters and prisoners seeking a path to rehabilitation.
Dr. Joanna Goodey, the Head of Freedoms and Justice Department at the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights spoke about interviewing thousands of mostly Muslims to gauge the scale of discrimination, racial profiling and its effects on radicalisation.
“The UK is the only EU country that puts information in public domain collected from police stops.” Goodey told a room filled with academics, journalists, members of the police and researchers from different think-tanks.
She was interviewed among other speakers on the sidelines of the event by former CNN reporter Trish Lynch and correspondent of IOHR Human Rights Web TV.
“IOHR has brought together this special group of experts, and those who have experienced the first-hand the shocking impact of extremists at work, to put these issues into focus and map out some feasible options to inform policy makers.” said Valerie Peay, the director of the International Observatory of Human Rights.
The lineup of international experts included Dr. Badrus Sholeh, Executive Director of Centre for the Middle East & Global Peace Studies in Indonesia, Dr. Lorenzo Vidino, Director of the Program on Extremism at George Washington University’s and Head of Radicalisation and International Terrorism at the Italian Institute for International Political Studies, Mr. Mirza Omerhodžić – Project Co-coordinator, IOM Bosnia and Herzegovina, Mr. Raffaello Pantucci – Director of International Security Studies at the Royal United Services Institute, Mr. Mohammad Touseef – Counter Terrorism Analyst, Fellow Centre for Strategy and Contemporary Research, Mr. Paul Birch – Counter Terrorism Internet Referral Unit (CTIRU) at the Metropolitan Police, (NCTT) , Dr. Shima D. Keene – Director of the Conflict Studies Research Centre, Oxford, and Dr. Nina Käsehage who presented her research titled: “Falling In Love With Martial Jihad” — an exploration of motives of Salafistic – Jihadistic Women.