Women's fight against violent extremism

Women's fight against violent extremism

Read the blog, which is now available in English, written by Amalie Ehmsen, volunteer at FDCD, about the project: “Empowering Women Countering Extremism (EWCE).

By Amalie Schultz Ehmsen

Roya Moore went to Lebanon in October 2016 to participate in a seminar on how to empower women in countering radicalization and violent extremism. Here she met Waleed Alkordi and Sundus Salem from Iraq. They are currently working with Yazidi women who have previously been held captive by Islamic State (IS). This meeting made a great impression on Roya Moore.

Roya Moore is employed by Odense Municipality where she works as an ethnic consultant. Together with four other Danes, she has travelled to Beirut, Lebanon, to participate in the programme “Empowering Women Countering Extremism” (EWCE). The programme consists of a seminar and a workshop in which participants have the opportunity to create a Danish-Arab network to develop tools to empower women in countering radicalisation and violent extremism through social media. 30 women and men from Denmark, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Syria and Tunisia are participating in the programme. They are activists, consultants, students, teachers and NGO workers. Most of them have experience working in the fields of dialogue, women’s rights or prevention of violent extremism.

The seminar participants are active during the seminar and its presentations, as well as in their work groups. Photo: Amalie Schultz Ehmsen

Supporting Yazidi women

During the seminar, the participants presented how they experience extremism seen from their perspective, as well as initiatives that prevent extremism in their own countries. Waleed Alkordi and Sundus Salem from Iraq described how the consequences of Islamic State’s actions have affected a minority population in Iraq called the Yazidi. Waleed Alkordi and Sundus Salem both work in a centre that helps Yazidi women. They have gathered more than 500 testimonies from Yazidi women. They shared some of the Yazidi women’s stories with the participants.

On Facebook Roya Moore described her experiences meeting the Iraqi participants:

These days I am in Beirut, where I participate in the seminar ‘Empowering Women Countering Extremism’. Wow – so many impressions to take in. A lot of the participants make a difference in the Middle East. Examples are Waleed Alkordi and Sundus Salem. They work as lawyer/coordinator and humanitarian employee respectively at a centre in Dohuk, which is in the Northern Iraq. They help Yazidi women, who have been captured and held prisoners by the Islamic State. The Yazidi women have been subjected to the most serious assaults. At the centre, Waleed Alkordi and Sundus Salem provide legal, psychosocial and practical support to enable the Yazidi women to establish and lead normal lives. But at the same time, Waleed and Sundus also focus on restoring the Yazidi women’s honour and tackling the shame which the women feel. Therefore, Waleed and Sundus cooperate with religious leaders and leading women in the civil society. This way, women who escape from Islamic State, are received as heroes, when they return to their communities. The centre in Dohuk is also active in coordinating a risky effort to liberate women from Islamic State, and smuggling them back to their families. The support which the centre carries out, is very valuable for the women.

Ines from Tunisia and Rihame from Morocco take part in a dialogue exercise. Photo: Amalie Schultz Ehmsen

Networking and the role of women

“Women play an important factor in the fight against religious radicalization and extremism”, says Programme Consultant in Danmission, Line Stange Ramsdal.

“Recently, we have seen an increasing number of women being recruited through social media to travel to Syria and Iraq to join extremist groups. With this project, we want to form a network which can help us strengthen women’s role in creating alternatives to extremism by using social media”, Line Stange Ramsdal says.

Roya Moore, and the other participants from Denmark and the Middle East, have during the past few months learned more about each other and created initiatives, that can be used on social media.

Read more about the EWCE project here.