Fatherless Jihadis: how to stop German teenagers from joining radical groups

The absence of a father is one of the reasons why many radicalized German teenagers join fundamentalist groups, says an expert from the Violence Prevention Network in Germany. Mothers, however, can make a difference.

Young men cheer for the Salafist preacher Pierre Vogel, who was holding a speech in the city of Frankfurt am Main in April 2011.

At least 550 German citizens have left their home country to fight for the terror organization Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq, . After France and England, Germany is the country with the third largest amount of Jihadists leaving Europe to join forces with radicals abroad.

Referring to a still unpublished study by the German domestic intelligence service, Germany’s daily“Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung” reported that one third of the radicalized Germans who left their home country to fight with Islamist groups in Iraq and Syria were between 21 and 25 years old, while about 50 of them were teenagers. Continue reading

Extremist propaganda and illiteracy fuel Afghan protests

Waslat Hasrat-Nazimi

At least 12 people were killed in Afghanistan Friday as protests continued to rage over the desecration of the Koran. Observers in the war-torn country say the lack of political education is one reason for the violence.

Once again thousands of people poured out onto the streets of Afghanistan after Friday prayers. They demonstrated against the US and the Afghan government. Hundreds marched towards the presidential palace in Kabul. They threw rocks and chanted “Death to America and Karzai.” At least a dozen people were killed, including two US soldiers.

The Afghan government had already warned of more violence, which has escalated ever since charred copies of the Koran were found at a US air base in Bagram. The demonstrators themselves were also apprehensive of what would happen after Friday prayers.

Ahmad Jawed, a protester from Herat, said it was wrong to respond to the burning of the Koran with violence. “Those who have used violence in the past days are harming the Afghan people. Unfortunately, some politically-motivated groups are exploiting the peaceful intentions.

“We not only condemn the US for the burning of the Koran but also those who are committing crimes in the name of the Koran and its desecration,” he stated angrily.

Yunus Fakoor, a political expert in Kabul, said radical religious groups were pouring oil on the fire for their own purposes. “This is not a defense of faith. They are exploiting the religious feelings of people.”

Lack of political education

These religious feelings are deeply anchored in Afghan society and many see the desecration of the Koran, the direct word of God, as an attack on their most cherished values. But political scientist Tufan Waziri agreed that these feelings alone cannot explain the current outbreak of emotion and violence.

He blames the lack of political education, which means that incidents such as those in Bagram, which must be condemned, are often misinterpreted or exaggerated. “Education and literacy levels are very low among the Afghan population. People are also very poor and they are disappointed that their living standards have not improved over the past 10 years.”

Kabul lies low

As Afghans rise up against the government and the West, the former is keeping a low profile. Little has been done to bring the situation under control; Kabul can only hope it will survive this latest wave of anger intact.

There is currently a lot at stake for Hamid Karzai’s government, which is trying to hammer out an agreement over a long-term strategic partnership with Washington. His neighbors in Pakistan and Iran particularly disapprove of the deal and are worried they will not be able to defend their own interests in the region.

However, Ahmad Zia Raf’at from Kabul University doubts that the partnership will be prevented, even if the current demonstrations are boosting Karzai’s opponents. “If there is the political will to promote US-Afghan cooperation, then it will be promoted. The protests won’t change anything. In a few days, feelings will have cooled down.”

However, he also hopes that the US will learn from this situation and stop giving extremists fuel for their propaganda.

Dieser Artikel erschien ursprünglich hier:  DW.de

Taliban try to recruit children as suicide bombers

Waslat Hasrat-Nazimi

The recruitment of young suicide bombers is one of the Taliban’s most terrible tactics – yet it still remains a problem in Afghanistan. Some young children though are able to be rescued before they lose their lives.

Nasibullah was just nine years old when it happened. He was playing on the banks of a river in his home town of Kandahar, in southern Afghanistan, when he was approached by members of the Taliban, and kidnapped. They imprisoned him and started to brain wash him, all in the hope of turning him into a suicide bomber, to die in their war. “They tied a bomb around me and told me that it was a toy. They said: as soon as you see soldiers, you can connect the cable.”

The Taliban coax in the children with promises of toys or money. Nasibullah was one of the lucky ones. Before he could carry out his bombing, he was discovered by the police and brought to another part of Afghanistan. He had to wait 20 days before authorities could bring him back to his father.

A new chance

Nasibullah was allowed to return to his family. Other Afghan kids, that were also on the path to becoming suicide bombers, can land in jail after being found by the police. Often these youngsters weren’t kidnapped but instead supposedly “voluntarily” chose to die.

In the summer of 2011, Afghan President Mohammad Karzai approved the release of a number of youths who had been arrested for attempted suicide bombing.  They were given a school education and a new chance at life. “The Taliban make their own sons into doctors and engineers. They want to turn our kids in to criminals, so that our land can not move forward,” Karzai said.

Children of jihad

Even before the Taliban started using children and teenagers for suicide bomb attacks, youths were being used as soldiers in Afghanistan. “Even in the war against the Soviet Union, youths were being called into the army and forced to take part in the jihad,” General Atiqullah Amarkhel, former Commander in the Afghan Army told DW.

Even today this propaganda has a strong effect on the kids, says Amarkhel. He believes that some would go to war on their own volition, even if their parents didn’t know.

The young recruits are not just efficient fighters for the Taliban. They also play a role in the psychological warfare that is taking place, says the ex-General. “The enemy uses suicide attacks to play with the minds of their opponent. People know the effect these attacks have on foreign soldiers. This war is not fought on battle fronts, it is a guerilla conflict. The theory is: the opponents of the Taliban are weakened in every way until they capitulate.”

Poverty plays into Taliban’s hands

Poverty is one of the reasons why recruitment of young suicide bombers works. Many kids are flattered by the promises of money for their work. Azizuddin Hemat, head of psychological care at the Kabul public health department, says that the children involved are often not really aware of the potential deadly consequences of their actions.

Another factor is the children’s’ upbringing. “Kids that decide to die as suicide bombers, often grow up in strongly religious families. Since infancy they have been taught the value of praying and religious ceremony. It is easier to recruit these kids.”

These days, Nasibullah’s father is simply pleased to have his son back: “I drove around everywhere with my car to find him. I even had a lucky charm made, I spent all my money. I searched for him for 72 days.” He now hopes that the safety levels in Kandahar will improve, so that he doesn’t have to ever go through the same torment again.

Dieser Artikel erschien ursprünglich hier:  DW.de

“Brutstätten des Extremismus”

Waslat Hasrat-Nazimi

Koranschulen in Pakistan stehen unter Verdacht, Brutstätten des Extremismus zu sein. Ist dieser Vorwurf berechtigt? WaslatHasrat-Nazimi sprach mit dem Pakistan-Experten Jochen Hippler von der Univeristät Duisburg-Essen.

Am Dienstag (13.12.) wurden in einer religiösen Schule in Pakistan angeblich mehr als fünfzig junge Männer, teilweise auch Kinder, schwer misshandelt. Sie sollten óffenbar zu Selbstmordattentätern ausgebildet werden. Viele Experten gehen davon aus, dass das kein Einzelfall in Pakistan ist. Was denken Sie?

Jochen Hippler: Die religiösen Schulen in Pakistan sind sehr unterschiedlich. Eine ganze Reihe von ihnen werden auch von halbwegs aufgeklärten Angehörigen der Mittelschicht besucht. Wir haben aber auch eine Reihe von Koranschulen oder “Madrasas”, die eine wichtige Rolle bei der Radikalisierung spielen und Brutstätten des Extremismus sind. Und da gibt es auch Fälle, wo Zwang ausgeübt wird. Dies ist jedoch nicht die Regel, sondern die Ausnahme. Viele Schüler gehen freiwillig in diese Schulen, weil es kostenloses Essen gibt und man auch teilweise die religiöse Ideologie teilt.

Demnach wird an diesen Koranschulen teilweise auch eine extreme Sichtweise des Islam gelehrt. Das geschah vor allem in den 80er Jahren, als religiöse Kämpfer, die Mudschahedin, ausgebildet wurden, um in Afghanistan gegen die Russen zu kämpfen. Dieser Krieg ist lange vorbei, die Russen sind nicht mehr da – warum sind die Madrasas immer noch so mächtig?

Jochen Hippler: Tatsächlich gab es in den achtziger Jahren eine Tendenz zu glauben, durchaus auch mit ausländischer Unterstützung durch Länder wie Saudi Arabien, teilweise aber auch die USA, gute Kämpfer gegen die Sowjetunion heranbilden zu können. In dieser Zeit wurden viele dieser religiösen Schulen neu gegründet. Als die Russen abzogen, hat sich das verselbständigt. Als dann die USA ihre finanzielle Unterstützung beendeten, waren die Schulen schon zu einem politischen Faktor geworden, der sich in Pakistan selber eine Basis verschafft hatte. Spendensammlungen in Pakistan und weitere Geldmittel aus den Golfstaaten haben diese religiösen, extremistischen Schulen zusätzlich begünstigt.

Was sind die Ziele? Pakistan hat ja vor langer Zeit entdeckt, dass man die religiösen Kämpfer nicht nur in Afghanistan für die eigenen Interessen nutzen kann, sondern auch in der Region Kaschmir. Hat Pakistan also bewusst nichts gegen eine Ausweitung dieser Madrasas unternommen?

Jochen Hippler: Wenn man den Geist aus der Flasche lässt, kann man ihn schlecht zurückstopfen. Viele dieser [extremistischen Anm.d.Red.] Gruppen, die mit Regierungshilfe, mit Militärhilfe, aufgepäppelt werden, sind inzwischen so stark geworden, dass sie sich nicht mehr zurückpfeifen lassen. Sie operieren selber, teilweise in Afghanistan, in geringem Maße in Kaschmir, teilweise auch bei konfessioneller Gewalt zwischen Sunniten und Schiiten in Pakistan selbst. Diese Gruppen sind außer Kontrolle geraten. Doch einige ehemalige Militärs und pensionierte Geheimdienstler ziehen immer noch im Hintergrund die Fäden.

Wie kann die internationale Gemeinschaft, die teilweise dazu beigetragen hat, dass diese Schulen entstehen, den großen Einfluss extremistischer Schulen in Pakistan dämmen?

Jochen Hippler: Ich glaube, dass wir uns nicht zu sehr nur auf die Schulen konzentrieren sollten, weil das Umfeld dieses Extremismus noch breiter ist. Aber was mir bezogen auf die Madrasas wichtig zu sein scheint ist, dass viele Eltern aus ärmeren Verhältnissen ihre Kinder dorthin schicken. Die Schulen sind kostenlos. Und die Eltern sehen sie als einzige Chance, um den Kindern überhaupt eine Ausbildung angedeihen zu lassen. Es wäre also wichtig, in Pakistan ein Schulwesen aufzubauen, das besser ist und ähnliche soziale Dienstleistungen anbietet, wie die religiösen Schulen. Häufig schicken die Eltern ihre Kinder nicht dorthin, um ihre Kinder religiös verhetzen zu lassen, sondern weil es die einzige Chance ist, den Kindern überhaupt eine Ausbildung zu geben.

Dr. Jochen Hippler ist Politikwissenschaftler und zur Zeit Privatdozent am Institut für Entwicklung und Frieden (INEF) an der Universität Duisburg-Essen.

Dieser Artikel erschien ursprünglich hier:  DW.de