Information and news about terrorism

Global Citizen CorpsNearly 90% of young individuals reside in underdeveloped nations and in developed countries, over half of them do not have jobs, go to school or have formal training. The lack of financial opportunities leads adolescents to join terrorist groups to earn a basic income and to gain a sense of identity. To combat the problem, Mercy Corps created a program called The Global Citizen Corps (GCC) to reduce participation in terrorist groups and to influence adolescents to make positive changes in the lives of adolescents.

Mercy Corps’s Global Citizen Corps (GCC) Program

Mercy Corps came to fruition in 1979 and assists foreign countries going through difficult times, such as war, natural disasters, economic crisis and political turmoil. Through the establishment of the GCC program in 2003, the organization focuses on helping young individuals improve their future and communities.

First, the program allows adolescents from the United States to chat online with other young individuals residing in the Middle East. With the use of narratives, conversations and volunteer work, the American youth educate foreign counterparts about the ability to seek data, how to speak up, the skills needed to be a leader and what it takes to make a difference in communities. Furthermore, the program works with each country’s government, local businesses and third sector to help the youth find employment. The GCC examines every procedure and method created by each of these institutions to ensure fairness for all citizens. In particular, the GCC helps advocate for better various projects for adolescent job search.

The GCC also provides basic resources and a safe space for young people who do not own a residence. The program assists young individuals to feel secure in any environment by introducing therapy and treatment. The program meets the emotional and physical needs of adolescents to prevent youth participation in terrorist groups. Lastly, the GCC gathers thousands of adolescents from all over the globe to participate in the program’s leadership course. The course allows young individuals from around the world to establish relationships, come to a mutual understanding about how to improve environments and inspire other adolescents to engage in community service.

GCC’s Impact

Since the program’s inception, GCC taught 15,000 young individuals about occupational skills, financial knowledge, job searching and interpersonal competence in 2009. Additionally, approximately 60,000 adolescents participated in community service, ranging from neighborhood gatherings to raising awareness for important issues in 2009. The GCC program caught the attention of nearly 12 million young citizens through social media and other news outlets in the same year.

Hope for the Future

All in all, the Mercy Corps’ GCC program aids in lowering youth participation in terrorist groups by creating online chat forums, advocating for fair institutional rules and practices, attending to adolescent basic needs and teaching leadership classes. The wide range of information and opportunities drive young individuals to advocate for positive change in youth life and nearby communities. When the youth put time and attention toward productive activities, joining a terrorist group appears unappealing. As the Global Citizen Corps program reaches more young citizens living in war-torn countries, the decline of terrorism looks achievable.

– Samantha Rodriguez
Photo: Flickr

combat violence in MoroccoThere is a Moroccan village in the foothills of the High Atlas Mountains where a group of women is staking their claim to a portion of the nation’s economy. With the support of a government initiative, these women have formed a civil society organization (CSO) known simply as, The Association. These women took part in jumpstarting the production of sheep and honey within the region. This is an effort to combat violence in Morocco.

The Benefits of CSOs

In May 2017, Dr. Beth Shirley, a professor of technical and science communication at Montana State University, participated in a research trip to Morocco. The trip involved the study of how CSOs are designed to improve the lives of women in rural communities. The researchers engaged with members of the Association and learned about how they communicate and organize themselves in a semiliterate environment. Also, how a CSO manages the effects of climate change on their agricultural prospects.

In an interview with The Borgen Project, Dr. Shirley said, “Improving the lives of women like this actually reduces violence and terrorism.” Additionally, the women in The Association are contributing to, “the reduction of violence against women more than Morocco’s progressive legislation.”

There is a long history that has led to this moment in Morocco and women in the High Atlas Mountains stand at the forefront of the fight for rights and against violence.

The History of the Women’s Rights Movement in Morocco

Following Morocco’s independence from France in the late 1950s, there was a push for sweeping legal and cultural reforms. During the women’s rights movement, artistic talents were often used to renegotiate the status of cultural identity in a post-Colonial Morocco. Not long after this, women began to shape contemporary politics by forming unions and other democratic associations and holding positions in the ruling government.

A couple of decades later, the Arab Spring began and shifted the dynamic of the pro-democracy and women’s movements in Morocco. This led to radical reforms such as the right to marry without permission from a male guardian, the right to divorce their partner and the right to maintain custody of children after a divorce. The legal marriage age also changed for the better. Once the legal age was 15, now it is 18.

This progressive legislation emboldened more women to invest their time and resources into their society and attempt to combat violence in Morocco. The women of the High Atlas Mountains were a part of this trailblazing class of women. It was in 2012, one year after the Arab Spring, that they formed their Association and began to improve the lives of rural women.

The story of the Association is a testament to the lengths that Morocco has gone to become a progressive Arabian ally. Sadly, there are still many loopholes in the legal framework that fail to protect women from sexual harassment and assault.

Violence Against Women and Terrorism

In this sense, Morocco finds itself stuck in an awkward position when it comes to the protection of women’s rights. This is because the policies are progressive enough to anger religious extremists yet lax enough to condone violence against women exercising their rights. This thorny reality has allowed terrorism to propagate in Morocco and neighboring nations like Algeria for the last decade.

At a U.N. Forum in New York City, Justine Coulidiati Kiélem, president of the G5 Sahel Women’s Platform, stated that it’s critical for women to be allowed to stop terrorism. Kiélem said, “They [Moroccan government] sometimes spend money on the wrong priorities. They need to spend money on where there can be a good impact — supporting women.”

The Moroccan government answered this call by implementing policies like the Hakkaoui law. The Hakkaoui Law is in place to combat violence in Morocco. It criminalizes any act of harassment, aggression or sexual exploitation against women. Other supportive laws incentivize women-led programs like the Association. These reforms, paired with a robust counterterrorism strategy, have led to dramatic successes. According to the United States Bureau of Counterterrorism, “There were no terrorist incidents reported in Morocco in 2019.”

Some say that this fact is proof that the Hakkaoui law mitigates violence against women. However, advocates for women’s rights believe the measures taken have not been enough. For instance, 40% of women between the ages of 18 and 64 experience violence, with more than half of those acts committed by their husbands.

Dr. Shirley said, “During my time in Morocco, I didn’t witness or experience any violence, but it does happen, most often behind closed doors.” While rates of violence are going down, the law does not go far enough. Al Jazeera reports that “the legislation does not explicitly outlaw marital rape or spousal violence and does not provide a precise definition of domestic violence, leaving women vulnerable.”

A Long Path Forward

Dr. Shirley recalled a statement from one of the Moroccan women in her study: “She said, ‘I would like to see the women be able to travel more, to think for themselves and make their own decisions and be more independent.’” The Association gives women in this rural village the power to be autonomous — to make the choices that they want to make for themselves. But, this effort could not be done without their collective participation in the movement. On their own, they might not be heard, but together, they speak loudly as one. Together they can combat violence in Morocco.

Morocco is on the brink of a transformative societal shift. The policies in place have to extend to all Moroccan women in both rural and urban communities. Making these changes not only grants women protection and the ability to participate in the economy but also sets new standards for what is acceptable and what is not in a civil society.

Women engage in small acts of resistance every day by exercising their right to protest, by engaging in a collective discourse and by educating members of their community. Moroccan women like those living in the High Atlas Mountains are laying the foundation for the path forward through economic participation. With the right type of legal pressure, advocates may find a way to light the fire that will create a transformative shift forward and combat violence in Morocco.

– Matthew Hayden
Photo: Flickr

How Promoting Gender Equality Can Help Fight TerrorismA 2020 brief by the U.N. Office of Counter-Terrorism denotes a reciprocal relationship between gender inequality and terrorism, whereby terrorism underpins gender inequality by inspiring violence against women. In the same manner, gender inequalities fuel terrorism and gender equality fights terrorism, as most terrorist groups exploit gender norms to violate women’s rights. Research by The Brookings Institution revealed that societies that prioritize gender equality are less likely to engage in internal and external violence. Consequently, gender equality and female empowerment are two of the most critical strategies to put in place to fight terrorism.

The Correlation between Gender Inequality and Terrorism

A study examining the in-depth link between gender, terrorism and foreign fighters hypothesized that countries that tolerate domestic violence against women are more likely to experience political violence and extremism. The same study found that the majority of radicalized individuals have a past history of domestic violence and crimes against women.

A strong correlation coefficient of 0.6 exists between lower levels of violence against women and higher democratic quality. As a higher level of democracy implies a lower prevalence of terrorism, this implicitly indicates that promoting gender equality strengthens efficient and effective democracy, which weakens terrorism. Democratic efforts further support the societal benefits of efforts where gender equality fights terrorism.

Although there is no one-size-fits-all explanation for why both men and women engage in terrorism, compounding factors that primarily affect women may be one of the answers. In a cruelly cyclical manner, such factors include a lack of decision-making power over household finances and a desire for greater independence.

Furthermore, a report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) lists rape and coercive familial relationships as among the factors that push women into terrorism.

Case study: Bangladesh & Morocco’s Success Stories

The strong correlation that exists between gender inequality and terrorism leaves no doubt that promoting gender equality and female empowerment is one of the best strategies to put into place to deter terrorism. This strategy has successfully worked in countries like Bangladesh and Morocco.

Since 2005, Bangladesh has not experienced any significant non-political terrorist attacks. Since 2011, Morocco has not either. A similarity between the two countries, apart from success in suppressing terrorism, is an emphasis on women’s empowerment and integration of counter-terrorism efforts.

As a Bangladeshi representative at the country’s Washington Embassy disclosed, the country substantially owes its success in countering terrorism to the inclusion of female empowerment in its local Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) efforts.

Measures that the Bangladeshi Government has taken to empower women include employment efforts. The Ready-Made Garment (RMG) Industry is the largest employer of women in Bangladesh. For self-employment measures, the government established micro-credit and micro-lending programs for women, which have significantly improved the standards of living of Bangladeshi women. These lending programs have helped women start and successfully run small businesses.

The newfound sense of independence, self-esteem and self-worth among Bangladeshi women has increased their economic participation, furthered their education and boosted their social empowerment. Bangladesh has also worked to inspire girls through education by ensuring that 60% of remote primary school teachers are women.

Likewise, Morocco has implemented various measures which have successfully helped the country to curb extremism and terrorism. These include raising the minimum marriage age to 18 for women; allotting shared property rights through marriage; introducing restrictions on polygamy, which significantly lowered its incidence; allowing women to initiate divorce by law; and making it possible for women to retain custody of children after divorce.

Looking Ahead

Former Secretary to the U.N. Kofi Annan declared, “There is no development strategy more beneficial to society as a whole — women and men alike — than the one which involves women as central players.”

Promoting gender equality and female empowerment has proven to be a crucial measure to fight terrorism. The level of success at which this strategy has helped control terrorism in countries clearly signals its efficacy. Ultimately, gender equality fights terrorism, weakening it across the board and limiting those who engage in it in a variety of ways. Based on national examples, promoting and developing gender equality promises the same — or even better — results if enacted at a global level.

– Divine Mbabazi
Photo: Flickr

Poverty and Terrorism in PakistanPakistan is a country in southwest Asia, with a population of about 212.2 million people. Of this population, about 24.3% of people lived below the poverty line in 2015. The country has struggled with years of terror, a poor economy and a corrupt taxation system, all leading to high rates of poverty. However, recognizing the cycle of poverty and terrorism in Pakistan, juxtaposed with recognizing the importance of assistance from the United States, highlights the importance of foreign aid.

Poverty and Terrorism in Pakistan

In Pakistan, four out of every 10 people are without essentials like food, shelter, access to healthcare and education. Furthermore, 22.5 million children are out of school, a statistic that is only worsening with the COVID-19 pandemic. Girls are especially affected as there are very few opportunities for female education or places in the workforce. Additionally, the taxation system targets those who cannot afford to pay their taxes. A whole 80% of Pakistan’s tax revenue comes from the poor, while only 5% comes from the rich. This inequality pushes the population further below the poverty line.

In addition to the poverty crisis, Pakistan has a long history of terrorism, which is a problem that only worsens humanitarian issues. The GDP is generally low for the country and has been shown to have an inverse relationship with terror-related killings. In 2010 specifically, killings were at an all-time high and the GDP plummeted. As a result, Pakistan has paid a steep price for its terrorism. Over 17 years, from 2001 to 2018, Pakistan spent almost $126.7 billion on damage involving terror-related incidents.

Importance of United States’ Involvement

While poverty and terrorism in Pakistan may seem like a Pakistani internal issue, it is not. For homefront reasons, the United States must continue to invest in Pakistan. As export income has proven, in 2019, the United States exported $2.6 billion worth of goods to Pakistan. This is crucial for the U.S. economy, as exports create a chain of supply and demand, which in turn, increases the need for more U.S. jobs. If the Pakistani economy worsens, the United States will export fewer goods, which directly impacts the U.S.

The need for the United States’ involvement goes beyond the economy though. About 8,600 U.S. troops are deployed in Afghanistan, in part due to the tense dynamic between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Many defense and security experts have implored the United States to continue working with Pakistan to improve relations with Afghanistan. Providing more foreign aid for Pakistan helps its relations with Afghanistan, which increases the possibilities of sending U.S. troops back home. Furthermore, foreign aid allows Pakistan to improve its economy by increasing security, which decreases terrorism. Decreasing terrorism in Pakistan is a national security benefit for the United States as well, thus improving both countries’ living conditions.

Save the Children

Save the Children is a nonprofit organization based in the United States that works to provide global solutions to children impacted by terror and social unrest. In Pakistan, 500,000 children are internally displaced and another 1 million refugees come from Afghanistan. These high rates of homelessness are a result of the mass amounts of violence, political unrest and poor diplomatic relations with other countries. With children making up over 48% of Pakistan’s population and 38% suffering from malnutrition, children in Pakistan are overlooked.

However, Save the Children has provided solutions to help Pakistani children. It has lifted 86,000 Pakistani children out of poverty. Furthermore, the organization has worked with programs such as the National Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Network to train healthcare workers to provide reproductive health services. Through the Literacy Boost approach, the organization was able to increase reading comprehension by 30% for Pakistani children. Save the Children also advocates for children’s rights, educates young girls and women and provides shelter and supplies to that extreme violence most affects.

The Need for Foreign Aid to Pakistan

United States’ foreign aid helps the humanitarian crisis in Pakistan but also provides benefits for the U.S. Save the Children demonstrates the impact of U.S. humanitarian relief in impoverished countries like Pakistan. There is a critical need to continue to support Pakistan and being in a position to help people in need is reason enough.

– Alyssa Hogan
Photo: Flickr

ngos in lebanonBordered by Syria, Israel and the Mediterranean Sea, Lebanon is a Middle Eastern nation of almost 7 million citizens. Its history has only grown in complexity since it gained independence from France in 1944. Lebanese people have faced civil war, political and economic instability, border disputes and human rights violations into the present day. Thankfully, many NGOs in Lebanon work to address these issues. NGOs have supported the Lebanese people in suppressing terror, promoting gender equality, ending militarization, advocating for human rights and recovering from the Beirut explosion. Paramount to Lebanon’s security and future are not just improved government and policies, but also these NGOs on the ground.

Terrorism

In 2019 alone, four major terrorist groups posed an ongoing threat to Lebanon’s national security. Three acts of terrorism that year sparked an unprecedented governmental and legislative response. Lebanon is a member of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS and recently launched a national Preventing Violent Extremism Coordination Unit. However, the Lebanese people’s long-standing lack of trust in government remains. This is where NGOs in Lebanon come in.

Since 1985, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, an American NGO, has promoted peace in Lebanon. The NGO identifies Lebanese entities actively promoting terror from within the government, such as Green Without Borders. The institute proposes counteracting these entities from abroad by publishing research and pushing policies for financial transparency. Its work is therefore vital to an effective government free from ties to terrorism.

Gender Inequality

Even though Lebanese women got the right to vote in 1952, gender inequities and violence remain among Lebanon’s most critical issues. In 2020, Lebanon ranked 145th among 153 countries in closing the gender gap. This ranking represents variables such as economic participation, educational attainment, health, survival and political empowerment. With women holding just 4.7% of parliamentary seats, NGOs in Lebanon are working to pave the way for female representation in government to empower marginalized citizens.

While global humanitarian groups have funded many gender equity campaigns in Lebanon, NGOs in Lebanon, like the feminist collective Nasawiya, spearhead much of the cultural change. Nasawiya advocates not just for the humane treatment and representation of women, but also for all genders and identities within Lebanon. With 11 projects underway, Nasawiya lobbies the Lebanese government and provides resources for women affected victimized by gender violence.

Militarized Justice Systems

Although Lebanon is officially a unitary multiparty republic with a parliamentary system of government, its justice systems are increasingly militarizing. Lebanon’s controversial pattern of suppressing peaceful civilian protests has garnered international attention as its use of military courts grows. In Lebanon, trials in military courts lack qualified judges, permit torture-induced confessions as evidence, issue inconsistent and lengthy sentences and fail to deliver due process. This affects more than just adults. Indeed, the Union for Protection of Juveniles in Lebanon identified 355 children tried before the military courts in 2016 alone.

As the line between the Lebanese justice system and the military blurs, prosecutors have even brought charges against human rights lawyers and activists who oppose them. NGOs like Helem, which advocates for LGBT rights, are working to hold courts accountable to their victims. The International Center for Not-For-Profit Law and other NGOs in Lebanon have launched further investigations into Lebanon’s militarized courts. By publicizing records and providing credible research, they promote justice in Lebanon.

Migrant and Refugee Rights

An estimated 1.5 million Syrian refugees and over 250,000 migrant workers from neighboring countries reside in Lebanon. Unfortunately, exclusionary immigration and refugee policies have created a human rights crisis. Migrant workers and refugees in Lebanon work in unregulated conditions, lack permanent residency and are victims of mass evictions. In 2017, 76% of refugee and migrant households lived below the poverty line. Additionally, 77% experienced food insecurity and 36% lacked an employed family member.

NGOs in Lebanon like International Alert advocate both for reforming the justice system and improving refugee and migrant rights. International Alert promotes policies targeted at improving legal conditions for these marginalized populations in Lebanon. Care, another NGO, also works on the ground to provide interim resources and housing for refugees and migrants in Lebanon.

The Beirut Explosion

When 3,030 tons of ammonium nitrate stored near a port in Beirut caught on fire and exploded in early August 2020, at least 200 people died, over 6,000 were injured and several hundred remain missing. The severe damage inflicted on some 70,000 homes left an estimated 300,000 Lebanese homeless. The Lebanese Red Cross met a large part of the urgent need for humanitarian assistance to the Lebanese people affected by the explosion. This NGO has provided free medical care to over 23,700 people  through 36 health centers and nine mobile medical units.

The Lebanese Red Cross is also providing shelter for 1,000 displaced families and is expanding to help a projected 10,000 families. Additionally, the organization provides families with food, water, masks, gloves and other supplies. Another facet of this NGO, the Red Cross Restoring Family Links program, reconnects separated families. It also provides mental health and counseling resources for victims.

NGOs in Lebanon Continue the Fight

While the Lebanese people continue to suffer from a legacy of conflict, instability, inequality and oppression, NGOs are working hard to help mitigate these critical issues. NGOs in Lebanon strive to improve human rights to help bring peace and prosperity to this Middle Eastern nation.

– Caledonia Strelow
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Crisis in the SahelThe Sahel region of Africa is south of the dry Sahara and north of the humid Sudanian savanna. This tropical, semiarid zone consists of a band of 10 countries and spans 5,900 kilometers from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea. People living in this region have suffered instability and unrest due to issues such as terrorism, climate change and food insecurity. Moreover, COVID-19 has only intensified these problems. Here are five facts to know about the crisis in the Sahel:

5 Facts About the Crisis in the Sahel

  1. Violence in the region is on the rise. The Africa Center for Strategic Studies reported that militant, Islamist group activity and violence in the western Sahel escalated since the middle of 2017, growing nearly seven-fold. Due to inadequate governance and intercommunal violence, 4,404 fatalities were recorded west of Sahel compared with the 770 deaths in 2016. Terrorist attacks forced displacement upon 900,000 people in Burkina Faso alone, where 516 violent attacks occurred in the past three years. Meanwhile, a disputed election and a coup following months of protests currently corrupt conflict-ridden Mali. The region harbors 3.1 million refugees, internally displaced persons, returnees and people at risk of statelessness.
  2. Widespread hunger is becoming an increasingly prominent threat. Humanitarian organizations warn of a hunger pandemic in the Sahel. As food insecurity and malnutrition rates continue to soar rapidly, more than 12 million people already lack access to food. Around 10 million additional children could suffer from acute malnutrition and 3 million from protein-energy starvation, due to the exacerbating effects of COVID-19. The U.N. predicts that 5.5 million people will lack access to sufficient food by the end of the year in Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso.
  3. Accessibility to education is declining. School closures affect more than 2.2 million children in the Sahel. In March, 11,500 schools closed or were rendered nonoperational. This left 71 million children without access to education. Although various schools closed due to the COVID-19 lockdown procedures, some institutions forced students out. The forced dispelling, due to attacks and threats from extremists.
  4. Climate change is endangering the country’s physical and economic well-being. A steep environmental decline through rapid desertification, deforestation and water shortages is currently threatening Africa’s Sahel region. Climate changes are causing drought and widespread crop failures in the region. As a consequence, there is a forcible displacement of millions of rural people as they move toward the coasts in search of fertile, farming land.
  5. Uncontrolled population growth is pressuring the region’s resources. Extraordinary population growth challenges the Sahel region. The population in the region will approximately double within 30 years. In some countries, the growth potential is even greater. Niger, for example, could triple the number of its inhabitants in 35–40 years. Moreover, due to high fertility rates and the youngest age structure in the world, many terrorist groups see an opportunity in exploiting the plentiful supply of youth in the Sahel.

A Global Commitment to Change

Due to the displacement crisis in the Sahel, 24 million people — with half of those being children — urgently need access to essential health services. According to OCHA, $2.8 billion would effectively provide aid to these impoverished individuals in the Sahel. An extra $638 million would adequately mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 in the region. The $2.8 million investment would help increase employment and political stability. Furthermore, it would assist refugees and implement new and ongoing programs in the Sahel.

France and the G5 (the five Sahel countries: Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Chad) held a meeting to acknowledge the crisis. The main issues being, instability and terrorist threats pervading the Sahel. The participants committed to a strategy that focuses on combating terrorism and creating sustainable change through institutional reform.

A Final Outlook

The Sahel is the most impoverished region globally and faces challenges from persistent threats. Additionally, COVID-19 threatens to exacerbate previous issues and is estimated to forcibly displace 1 million people across the Sahel region. One surefire way that the Sahel will steadily improve is through support from the U.S. and other nations to fund programs for more effective governance, healthcare and education.

– Isabella Thorpe
Photo: Flickr

Moroccan Counterterrorism PolicyIn 2003, twelve Moroccan suicide bombers killed 45 people in Casablanca, Morocco’s largest city. Ever since the bombing in 2003, the King and the government have launched several counter-terrorism operations to address the roots of terrorism. These operations aim to prevent radicalization through not only the legal system but also education, religious reformation and social change. Fighting poverty is one of the important pillars of the Moroccan counter-terrorism policy.

The Importance of Combating Poverty for Counter-terrorism

Although poverty is not the direct cause of terrorist or violent activities, economic conditions play a significant role in fueling recruitment for extremist groups. Domestic economic conditions let Moroccans go abroad for jobs and allow the spread of radical ideology.

Moreover, a major factor that can cause Moroccans to participate in a terrorist group or activities is an economic recession. The average income for ISIL soldiers is much higher than that of Moroccans. Every attacker in the Casablanca bombing was from a poor region in the city. Therefore, combatting poverty for counterterrorism is particularly important for the Moroccan government. The government launched a program called the National Human Development Initiative (INDH). Although the purpose of the program is not solely for fighting against radicalization, the program still sought to prevent vulnerable poor people from being tempted to join extreme groups for economic reasons.

The National Human Development Initiative: The $6 Billion Idea

King Mohammed VI of Morocco launched the INDH in 2005 with an initial $1.2 billion budget to reduce the economic gap and increase social and economic inclusion. In the first 10 years, the program has invested about $6 billion and benefited more than 7 million people, including young people and women, through several projects.

Housing Program

The INDH launched its housing program to help people in need have access to housing. The people in need could buy apartments at an affordable price with low-interest loans. To eliminate slums, the government also launched the program, 2004 – 2010 Cities without Slums. Initially, the government sought to eradicate all slums by providing basic necessities, such as electricity and water lines. However, it changed course to improve the situation of slums rather than eradicate them completely. In providing basic needs, the government tried to stop migration from slums to urban areas. These migrations often contribute to the radicalization of people in cities.

Reducing Youth Unemployment

In Morocco, 27% of young people are unemployed. The Moroccan government focuses on three areas to address this: “identification and centralization of methods, tools and services,” “guidance, training and placement of unemployed youth” and “soft skills development for students and unemployed youth.” USAID has made efforts to increase the employment rate among young people. In three major cities, it created six places where young people can learn useful skills to get jobs. More than 200,000 people have used its education services.

Conclusion

Despite criticism and issues regarding decision-making and accountability, the Moroccan government’s efforts to combat poverty for counter-terrorism have been largely praised. Through reviewing these issues, the Moroccan government could improve its counter-terrorism policy as well as strategies to fight against poverty. Their counter-terrorism policy shows the importance of combatting poverty to enhance national security.

– Sayaka Ojima
Photo: Pixabay

Fighting extremism in West AfricaWhile mainly known for causing violence and havoc in the Middle East, Islamic extremists have been expanding their presence in the West African and Sahel regions for years. Most of these groups are affiliated with either the Islamic State (such as Boko Haram) or Al Qaeda (such as Jama’at Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimi). These groups have carried out unspeakable atrocities in the West African region: kidnapping schoolgirls, recruiting child soldiers, targeting civilian markets and villages, committing massacres against herders and killing American special forces operators. As a result of these actions, nearly one million people in Burkina Faso have been internally displaced, along with 240,000 in Mali and a near half-million from Nigeria.

Poverty Brings Extremists to West Africa

West Africa is an attractive target for jihadist groups because of its extreme poverty levels, lack of government law enforcement and scarcity of basic services. In West Africa, 30% of the population lives on around $1.90 a day; in Nigeria, 60% of the population lives on less than $1.25 a day. Government services such as electricity and education are also lacking; 70% of impoverished girls in Niger never attended primary school.

In exchange for recruits, jihadist groups are providing services such as medical aid, protection and access to water. It is widely known that poverty creates conditions advantageous to radical groups. For instance, Boko Haram has pushed into the Lake Chad region, which suffers from particularly poor governance. They use the area as a base to conduct offensive operations against the surrounding villages. The same strategy has helped many radical groups gain traction in West Africa. Knowing this illuminates how to fight extremism in West Africa.

The Path Forward

One path toward fighting extremism in West Africa is providing basic services to the local population. Many governments’ military forces have had a reputation for human rights abuses. They are now trying to win over local populations by providing vital services. This helps governments gain legitimacy in the minds of the people, while it helps them combat terrorism.

Another solution is an initiative known as African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTA), which aims to create a single market in the African Union. Such an agreement would create a large free trade zone that would increase the prosperity of many countries in the African Union. This will address some of the socioeconomic conditions that create weak states. These conditions often make regions vulnerable to radical groups, so AfCTA can also help fight extremism in West Africa. The United States, particularly Congress and the White House, has largely supported this initiative.

Fighting extremism in West Africa will require multi-level analysis and solutions. Focusing on military-oriented solutions may seem tempting, but these are only short-term quick fixes. Instead, new organizations and initiatives must address the root causes of extremism. Increasing governmental support and bringing prosperity to the people of West Africa is the surest way to prevent jihadist groups from gaining greater influence in the region.

Mustafa Ali
Photo: Flickr

China's Human Rights Violations
The Chinese government is committing atrocities and human rights violations against the Turkic Muslims in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, a northwestern province of China. Chinese authorities detained at least 800,000 and up to 2 million Muslims since 2017; mainly Uyghurs, a predominantly Turkic-speaking ethnic group, along with other ethnic Muslim minorities.

China’s Motives

Riots broke out in Xinjiang in 2009 due to Uyghur mass protests against cultural and economic discrimination and state-incentivized migration of Han Chinese, the dominant ethnic group in China. Since then, the Chinese government worries that Uyghurs hold separatist, religious extremist ideas. Therefore, it justifies its repressive actions as necessary measures in response to threats of terrorism.

Chinese officials launched a Strike Hard Campaign against Violent Extremism in 2014 in Xinjiang, but the repression escalated significantly when Chen Quanguo, the communist party secretary, became the leader of Xinjiang in 2016. Prior to this, Chen Quanguo ruled Tibet from 2011 to 2016, where he implemented a dual strategy to restore and secure national security and social stability. He used aggressive policies to reduce ethnic differences and assimilate Tibetans to Han Chinese, such as re-education programs and intermarriage initiatives. Aside from these ethnic policies, Chen established dense security systems to reinforce this cultural transformation, including militarized surveillance systems. After ruling Tibet, people got to know Chen for restoring stability through the enforcement of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) rule and for his innovative ethnic policies, which he expanded in Xinjiang, targeting the Uyghur population.

Xinjiang is of particular strategic and economic importance for Beijing as it has the country’s largest natural gas and coal reserves with 40 percent of the national total. Xinjiang is a key area for China’s Belt and Road Initiative, a massive global trade project, as it connects China to the rest of Asia and Europe. Therefore, Beijing may be repressing the Uyghur in Xinjiang for economic reasons to protect its Belt and Road Initiative project in which China invested between $1 to 8 trillion.

China’s Human Rights Violations and Abuses

The autonomous region of Xinjiang changed its legislation to allow local governments to set up re-education camps to intern Muslims, where they must renounce aspects of their religion, learn Mandarin Chinese and praise the CCP, in order to combat extremism. As stated by the Chinese Communist Youth League in March 2017, “the training has only one purpose: to eradicate from the mind thoughts about religious extremism and violent terrorism, and to cure ideological diseases.”

Former detainees reported the use of stress positions, beatings, sleep and food deprivation by authorities, as well as the mistreatment and torture in some mass internment facilities as punishment for resisting or failing to learn the lessons taught.

The 11 million Uyghur living in Xinjiang outside of the camps also endure the tightening repressive policies of Chinese authorities who subject people to pervasive surveillance. Authorities use cutting-edge technology including artificial intelligence, big data and phone spyware. The CCP leader Chen Quanguo installed a grid-management system in Xinjiang, which divides the cities into squares of 500 people. A police station monitors each square that is in charge of regularly checking IDs, fingerprints and searching phones.

Global Response to China’s Human Rights Violations

The E.U. issued a statement in 2018 demanding China to respect the freedom of religion and the rights of minorities, as well as change its policies in Xinjiang. In July 2019, over 20 countries collectively signed a letter to the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, condemning China’s human rights violations against Uyghurs in Xinjiang. The letter urges China to allow U.N. experts access to the camps. However, no Muslim-majority country co-signed the joint statement. Instead, Saudi Arabia alongside 36 other countries signed their own letter in which they praised China’s achievements and argue that “human rights are respected and protected in China in the process of counter-terrorism and deradicalization.”

Most human rights organizations and non-governmental organizations also condemned China’s detention of Uyghurs. This was demonstrated in a joint letter that a coalition of five human rights organizations (including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and more) issued to the U.N. Secretary-General, urging the U.N. to take action.

On October 7, 2019, the U.S. blacklisted 28 Chinese organizations, both government agencies and top surveillance companies. This marked the U.S.’s first concrete action in response to China’s human rights violations against Uyghurs, along with the imposed visa restrictions on the Chinese government and communist party officials.

Conclusion

China still dismisses all allegations of human rights violations and uses its permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council to block human rights issues discussions. Immediate investigations on China’s human rights violations against Uyghurs must transpire and the U.N. should access detention camps. The situation in Xinjiang conveys the level of vulnerability ethnic minorities face, and the urgency for the international community to take concrete action.

Andrea Duleux
Photo: Flickr

peace and stability in Afghanistan
Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries in the world. The government estimates that 43.6 percent of the country’s total population in rural areas lives below the national poverty line. According to the latest United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs data, about 2.9 million Afghans are internally displaced, 22 percent of whom fled their homes in 2016 alone.

Despite improvements over the past decade, Afghanistan, maintains the lowest educational outcomes in South Asia. The country continues to lag in average educational attainment compared to other low-income and fragile countries. Moreover, girls fall further behind in educational outcomes. As of 2013-14, only 20.3 percent of Afghan women above the age of 15 are literate. The major cause of poverty and the lag in primary education in Afghanistan is the ongoing conflict that has lasted for over three decades.

Instability and Conflicts in Afghanistan

Since the Soviet invasion in 1979, the country endured many conflicts that stunted its ability to prosper and improve. For the past 20 years, the Taliban government became the leading cause of poverty and the prevention of peace and stability for Afghanistan.

After the refusal to turn in terrorist leader Osama Bin Laden to the United States after the 9/11 attacks, the extremist military organization joined countless conflicts with the U.S. whilst refusing any ethical attempts toward peace. Nevertheless, many provided aid to the Afghan people and looked for a peaceful solution.

At the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Summit and at the donors’ conference on Afghanistan in Brussels in 2016, Afghanistan received reassurances of continued international assistance for its security and development needs. The United Nations is part of this group of leaders as it deployed a team in the ground called the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA). UNAMA, which Afghanistan leads, promotes security, stability and development in Afghanistan. It looks forward to peace negotiations between the Afghan Government and armed opposition groups.

USAID is another organization that works toward peace and stability for Afghanistan. The agency provided food security by implementing an agriculture program that increased agricultural productivity and rural employment. It also provided access to a healthier lifestyle for Afghans by getting health care professionals and introducing people to healthier habits. The ability to build roads, schools and clinics is a huge step toward peace and stability for Afghanistan. USAID is helping make Afghanistan a better place for younger generations.

The Afghan Institute of Learning

The Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL) shares in USAID’s goals and made great strides toward a sustainable future for children. The AIL helps local people set up centers of learning and provides high-quality teacher training and administrative skills training so these centers can thrive. The centers give the Afghan people the opportunity to have literacy skills. Afghanistan has one of the lowest literacy rates in the world, currently estimated at 31 percent of the adult population. AIL addresses this issue by giving children education from preschool and having discussions with adults about current world problems. Children who study at AIL’s learning centers joined government schools at age-appropriate grade levels. Gaining literacy is life-changing for adults and children who often go on to study other subjects increasing their capacity to support themselves.

Many other organizations are addressing the increasing poverty rates and helping toward achieving peace and stability for Afghanistan. As the Afghan government and other international governments involve themselves, there is hope for Afghan people.

Andrea Viera
Photo: Flickr