Fighting radicalisation in Jordan

An article by Ioan Durnescu 

As many countries around the world, Jordan is also affected by radicalisation and violent extremism. The challenge is even more significant as Jordan is situated in the proximity of Iraq, Syria, Palestine and Israel. Moreover, Jordan is hosting one of the largest refugee camps in the world, Zaatari which is hosting around 80,000 refugees mostly from Syria. Some of the refugees who proved they could earn a living in Jordan were allowed to travel and integrate in the Jordanian society. This refugee crisis is not the first one that put pressure on the Jordanian Government. More than 2 million registered Palestine refugees live in Jordan today. Most of them already have full citizenship [2].

The geographical position, the melting pot of so many Arab nations and the regional crises and conflicts, exposed Jordan to radicalisation and extremism. Juveniles and young people were, as elsewhere in the world, the most vulnerable groups of people affected by this phenomenon. Some of them were recruited to fight on the ISIS’s side and some of them created violent incidents like the one in Irbid/Jordan. However, many juveniles got involved in the propaganda machinery of the Islamic State.

Once they get into the state’s attention, they need to be treated in line with the international standards and also need to be involved in de-radicalisation and disengagement programs that could facilitate their reintegration into the mainstream society.

EU project

This is one of the aims of the EU pilot project, called ‘Technical Assistance to support the Government of Jordan’s effort to prevent violent extremism’, implemented by the Gesellschaft fuer Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), Germany.

As part of its capacity-building support the EU-funded pilot project offers the Jordanian stakeholders the technical assistance for preparing and running a specialised rehabilitation center that will work with ‘juvenile offenders with a radicalised background’.

Training of the staff

Together with colleagues from Germany and Spain, I was involved in developing the training for the staff employed by this center. One of the first principles that were agreed was that all staff, including the security and the administrative one, has to be involved in a basic training aiming at developing the most fundamental skills for working with radicalised offenders, and in particular with juvenile offenders. The basic training covered themes such as: how to create a working alliance with an involuntary client, pro-social modeling, problem solving and motivational interviewing. In the second stage, the training included subjects such as risk assessment, cognitive behavioral interventions etc.

Training was delivered in an intensive way and included many role-plays and discussions that would allow beneficiaries to adapt the new knowledge and skills into the Jordanian context. This was actually the most important challenge: how to adapt Western knowledge to the Middle Eastern context.  The way we solved it was by involving our beneficiaries in long discussions and debates about how the principles behind our knowledge could be put at use in a different context such as the one in Jordan. In this respect, we are grateful for the enthusiasm and professionalism of our beneficiaries.

Reintegration of radicalised offenders

Besides the training, the EU pilot project supported the concerned Jordanian authority to develop a context-sensitive model for the rehabilitation and reintegration of radicalised offenders, including the standard operational procedures.

In the future, it is hoped that a new project will continue this work assisting the authorities to develop strong links with the families and communities from outside to support the treatment but also to ensure the post-release assistance. It is also hoped that training will continue and mechanisms to transfer training into the daily practice will be developed.

There are small steps but we hope in a constructive direction towards safer communities in Jordan and elsewhere.

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