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UN Week – 4/25/11

April 25, 2011

John and Douglas Carey, Editors, www.unweek.blogspot.com

Contents of this issue: UN TV looks inside At Qaeda.

The current issue of UN TV’s series “21st Century” deals with Al Qaeda terrorism, based on interviews with a former insider from Saudi Arabia, a young man named Khalid. Here are excerpts from the script; all quotes are from the narrator unless otherwise indicated:

 “A well educated young man, he’d thought hard before joining extremist groups in the mid 1990s. He says he decided to act after watching videos showing conflicts in which Muslims had become victims. * * * As he saw it, he was joining a liberation struggle for Muslims. He left for Afghanistan, without telling anyone. * * *

“In 1996 he enlisted at a camp run by Al Qaeda in eastern Afghanistan – and learned about machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades and explosives. * * * In the spring of 2001 in Kandahar, he had his first personal meeting with Osama Bin Laden. It was kind of a job interview. * * * But Khalid says he was not impressed. * * *

“Khalid knew that Al Kaeda had carried out murderous attacks on civilians – like the bombing of the US embassy in Kenya. Nevertheless he agreed to become a trainer – his specialty: remote control circuits for explosives. * * * During this period he heard Bin Laden talking about a new operation against the United States. * * *

“Bin Laden was talking about the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. After that, Al Qaeda came under heavy bombardment by American bombers. Khalid fled to Tora Bora, on the mountainous border with Pakistan. It wasn’t long before the Americans’ chief target – Bin Laden arrived there as well. * * *

“After a month of bombing, Bin Laden fled to Pakistan a day ahead of everyone else. Today a disillusioned Khalid regards him as a coward. * * * Khalid was captured by the Pakistani military and handed over to the Americans in Kandahar. * * *

“Then a plane journey – destination unknown – it took more than twenty hours. He remembers feeling warmth and sunshine as he left the plane, still blindfolded. He had arrived at the American detention facility at Guantanamo. It was January 17th, 2002. He would be held there for the next 4 and a half years. * * *

“But his hatred began to dissipate. He says a key moment in Guantanamo was when he was shown a film of 9/11 – before this he had only heard radio reports. * * *

 “At the end of 2005, Khalid was one of a group of inmates released from Guantanamo and flown back to Saudi Arabia. * * * Not locked in prison cells, but inmates playing sports, doing craft activities and going to class.

“Hamed Al Shaygi, a Professor of Sociology, helps run the Saudi rehabilitation program for young men accused of involvement in extremist violence. Instead of further punishment, education is key to the new approach. * * * The program brings in respected religious authorities to stress a central message that killing innocent people of any faith is totally against Islam. * * *

 “This is backed up with psychological counseling and job training. One aim is to create a sense of obligation. * * * Included in the treatment art therapy. Many could argue including victims of terrorism – is this program too lenient?”

To which Professor Shaygi responds: “We have sometimes comments that: oh you are spoiling them you are doing this and this and this. W said yes we want to spoil them, to make them indulge in real life. They taste the life of freedom that will help them to rehabilitate very quickly. * * *

“Professor Hamed El-Said, is a consultant to the UN’s Terrorism Monitoring group, which is promoting a global deradicalisation effort. Not only does Islam have a strong tradition of forgiveness, he says, but Saudi Arabia’s tightly-knit tribal ties mean that the young men on the program are seen as family.”

Professor El-Said commented that: “These individuals are looked at as our sons, that’s what the Saudis tell you – despite what they committed, despite what they did – they are still looked at as individuals who have been misled by more radical individuals like Al Qaeda to do what they did, and therefore they are really looked at as our sons they need help they need assistance and we are here to assist them.”

However, the Narrator added: “But some terrorists – those directly involved in atrocities – are not considered for the program and others refuse to join. Many remain behind bars for long sentences. So far, fewer than one in ten Saudis accused of terrorism have passed through the rehab center.”

And the Narrator adds that “Human Rights Watch’s Middle East director, Sarah Leah Whitson, says the program is tainted by being part of a system in which people can be imprisoned indefinitely without a proper judicial process.”

But the Narrator points out that as to Khalid, “Assessing that he no longer posed a danger to society, the Saudi government released him after one year, bought him a house, found him a job – and even helped him with a dowry so he could marry. * * * Reflecting on his own life, he knows that, unlike him, many others never had a second chance to escape the trap of violence.”

That’s all for this April 25th issue of United Nations Week: News and Views. We’ll be back with the next issue. Meantime, do send along your own views on any UN-related issues to www.unweek.blogspot.com

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