From 8-10 June 2015, Hedayah hosted a three-day workshop on “Countering Foreign Terrorist Fighter (FTF) Recruitment Workshop: Counter-Messaging and the Role of Disillusioned Former Fighters” in Abu Dhabi, UAE. The workshop convened government and non-government CVE practitioners to share communication approaches relevant to countering FTF radicalization and recruitment into DA’ESH, with a particular focus on the role of disillusioned FTFs.
Over the course of the three days, participants were asked to apply knowledge gained from the panel sessions to create and develop the content and structure of an alternative or counter-narrative that involved actual case studies of individuals who have traveled to join DA’ESH.
Foreign terrorist fighters (FTFs) returning to their home countries from the conflict stimulated by the self-proclaimed “Islamic State” or ad-Dawlah al-Islamiyah fil-Iraq wa as-Sham (DA’ESH) abroad, have been a growing concern for many countries—particularly those in the international counter-DA’ESH coalition.
Past conferences and workshops have focused on issues related to FTF rehabilitation and reintegration back into society, but the need for effective counter-narrative communication strategies to prevent the spread of violent extremism and terrorism is now more relevant than ever. The use of interviews, testimonials, and statements of once-inspired FTFs, who now denounce the actions of DA’ESH and other terrorist groups, can be potentially powerful in countering DA’ESH recruitment.
The workshop intended to serve as a starting point to build on the Global CVE Expo 2014 Communication Network and its projects. It recognized the value of former FTFs as effective messengers and encouraged project development between different sectors on counter messaging. The workshop enabled participants to identify the development process of counter-messaging and its key components. Panelists and keynote speakers demonstrated the application of a counter-messaging framework, which can be used as a model for regional and local approaches. Ultimately, the three-day workshop aimed to create a network of CVE communicators that will continue to engage and work together into the future.
In conclusion, the workshop highlighted the crucial need for a global and coordinated approach to tackle the growing threats of FTF recruitment. The geopolitical situation was identified as a key contributor to the push and pull factors towards radicalization, the importance of consistency was emphasized. Participants and panelists also identified the need to empower youth communities and disillusioned formers to allow them to play a role as counter-messengers.