During the programme, you talked about the possibility of jihadist de-radicalisation for those returning from war zones. What method of re-integration into society do you believe has the best chance of success and how realistic do you think is the idea of countries adopting a case-by-case method to assess returning jihadists?
Ghanem-Yazbeck: I actually talked about rehabilitation and not de-radicalisation. I believe that rehabilitation and empowerment through entrepreneurial and professional training might be successful. Avoiding dealing with returnees by confiscating their citizenship or by throwing them into jail for lack of an alternative is risky. Where possible, I would favour a case-by-case approach.
Government policies need to be more flexible with returnees and offer them rehabilitation procedures to reintegrate them into society and their communities. The latter is very important as we should remember that many women and men left because of their desire to be part of a "community" that transcends everything, even blood ties. Social enterprises, industries, private companies need to help in their rehabilitation. Work will give them a purpose in life and a sense of pride and citizenship. In Indonesia, initiatives like these have proved successful. Former extremist detainees were rehabilitated and have been offered jobs in fish farms, restaurants or literary cafes.
Keeping in mind how tense politics concerning Islam and jihadism are in the West, do you think the rehabilitation model of a country like Algeria, is a realistic suggestion for the western world?
Ghanem-Yazbeck: There is no single perfect programme for the demobilisation and rehabilitation of jihadists. Despite its shortcomings, the Algerian approach did help to end the country’s conflict and reintegrate some 15,000 former fighters into society. Then again, the Algerian experience may not be a realistic suggestion – every country has its specificities and challenges. Focussing on the Algerian experience could however prove a valuable starting point for developing disengagement initiatives elsewhere, be it in the west or in the MENA. If one lesson needs to be learned from the Algerian experience, it is that a military response is never enough, never satisfactory on its own. Jihadism is above all a social phenomenon. No one is born a terrorist. Consequently, a failure to engage with it on a social level may mean it rears its ugly head again.
Will women continue to pose a threat?
Ghanem-Yazbeck: I believe so. On the one hand, women will continue to participate in spreading jihadist propaganda via social media, attempting to indoctrinate and recruit at-risk individuals. On the other, some of these women (and men) may return to their respective countries and perpetrate terrorist attacks there, because they are still convinced by the ideology. It is crucial that we develop a better understanding of their roles and their motivations in order to draft effective policies that will prove a successful deterrent. We will only prevent at-risk individuals from joining IS by countering their ideology and presenting them with a better alternative.