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Invisible Women. Gendered Dimensions of Return, Rehabilitation and Reintegration from Violent Extremism (ICAN, 2019)

Between 2011 and 2016 over 42,000 foreigners from more than 120 countries joined terrorist organizations abroad, and an estimated 5,600 returned home as of October 2017. While the vast majority of foreign terrorist fighters are men, the rising participation of women is a trend worth noting, while keeping in mind the fact that those joining violent extremist and terrorist groups represent a fraction of a percentage of both men and women. According to The Soufan Group, the countries with the highest numbers of women joining ISIL include France with 320, Morocco with 285, Kazakhstan with more than 200, Tunisia with 100, and the United Kingdom with more than 100. Returnees include children born to mothers in the midst of war zones. Countless numbers may be born of rape or have been abandoned as the fighters retreated. These children, particularly girls, may have survived sexual abuse, and the boys, as young as nine, may have been subjected to military training. Some are victims of trafficking and coercion, while others were lured by the messages of extremist groups, or their own family members, but are now returning—either leaving groups to physically return to communities or seeking to distance themselves from VE groups within their communities. Many may be disillusioned and afraid. Others may still have ideological, familial or financial ties but be returning because VE groups have been weakened.

Meanwhile, attitudes of fear and mistrust among the public are palpable, with many asking the same questions: Are these returnees radicalized to violence? Will they pose a threat to our society? Who among them has perpetrated violence? What about their victims? Where is justice and accountability? How can there be reintegration programs including socioeconomic benefits for the families of the perpetrators of violence, while the victims’ families receive no support? With these questions troubling governments and communities globally, it is essential to better understand the population of people implicated in violent extremism. While governments have a legitimate interest in protecting their communities against potential risks or threats, this cannot be done at the expense of the human rights of those who are returning. Increased understanding is necessary for informing the policies and programmes that can prevent further violence, mitigate the rise of new splinter groups, and promote social cohesion in societies that are fractured and riven with mistrust.

Given the complexity, this work requires collaboration among the United Nations, regional multilateral organizations, national and local governments, and civil society, because effective rehabilitation and reintegration requires attention and action at the state, community, family, and individual levels across society. Because of individual psychosocial processes, it also requires the sustained and trusted engagement and involvement of local mentors, including educators and religious leaders, families, and other supportive social networks. In this context, locally-rooted CSOs have a crucial contribution to make. They often have unparalleled trust of and access to the affected individuals and communities, and they can also be effective interlocutors with government and security actors.

You can find the original publication here

Topic: Civil Society, Deradicalization, Children, Women, Victims of terrorism, Foreign Terrorist Fighters, Local communities, Human Rights , Programmes, Plans of Action, Rehabilitation and Re-integration, Families
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