4 February 2020 – On Tuesday, Yuliya Denissenko, an independent expert on preventing and countering violent extremism and the Director of a Kyrgyzstan-based NGO “Asia Group Foundation”, briefed the Counter-Terrorism Committee on her work on rehabilitation and reintegration in Central Asia, focusing on returning and repatriated foreign terrorist fighters and associated family members, including young children.
To date, a total of 914 individuals, including 676 children, have been repatriated to Central Asia and are now given a chance to return to a peaceful life. Ms. Denissenko underlined that repatriation initiatives undertaken by some of the Governments in the Central Asia region result not simply in saving the lives of these individuals, the absolute majority of whom are young children. “They are also part of a global message to the world. They are the real palpable alternative,” she said. “The majority of those whom the States of origin are so afraid to see back, are victims themselves. I am speaking about children. They were never asked, never given a choice. Children recruited and exploited by international terrorist groups are the first ones who need help, support and adequate care, so that they can begin their way to reintegration.”
To overcome stigmatization, Ms. Denissenko insists that the discussion terms must be changed. Instead of “former member of terrorist organization who must undergo a rehabilitation course,” one could instead (and if criminally punishable involvement in terrorist activity has not been established) use the term “victim of violence who has the right for rehabilitation.”
Speaking about the main myths surrounding radicalization and rehabilitation, Ms. Denissenko underlined that religious beliefs almost never play a key role in the process of terrorist recruitment. The typical underlying reasons often include stress related to failures in personal life, search for easy financial gain, protest against an existing regime. It is only after the initial stages of recruitment though manipulative techniques that a terrorist organization introduces distorted religious notions to support its own goals. Second, rehabilitation can never be quick. The minimum term for intense individualized rehabilitation course conducted by a team of highly qualified specialists with full-time support of the family takes 6 months and a truly successful rehabilitation can only be confirmed after at least seven years. Collective, or group, rehabilitation is never effective.
Ms. Denissenko identified three main categories of risks: systemic (related to reintegration into society, including the absence of legal framework for recognition of returnee status or ID documents, inadequate programme funding, lack of methodological framework, etc.), organizational (inadequate specialists and facilities, improper medical care, lack of a monitoring mechanism) and personal (related to the individual’s psychological, physiological and social characteristics). Ms. Denissenko concluded by saying that if the two groups of risks are adequately addressed on the State level, the so-called “personal risks” will become significantly less dangerous.