Radicalisation of youth has been a permeating problem in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KR-I) since so-called Islamic State (IS) entered the country. Now, a year since the defeat of IS in Mosul, it remains vital to the reconstruction and stability of the region that young people are provided with opportunities to be educated and employed, rather than radicalised.
The Deradicalisation Training Teachers (DTT) is a pilot programme funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs that trains high-school teachers and university professors to identify potential early stage radicalisation in the young adults they teach. Early identification of these vulnerable youth can lead to preventative action.
DTT is currently being trialed in two high schools and universities in Erbil, the capital of KR-I, and Halabja, a city that borders Iran and which was victim of Chemical attack by Saddam Hussein. 63 educators were selected to partake in the programme.
Mr Iqbal Ghafar, an educator, said: “I wish I had this knowledge earlier! A while ago, one of my students very depressed and people told me something negative about him. One day I told him, in front of the other students: “Hey you should be careful! They are looking for you; I heard that you are being a radical person, police will arrest you”. Two days later he disappeared. I feel so guilty because this was not the way I should have talked to him. This workshop has helped me gain skills in how to manage these kind of situations”.
Studies have also shown that parents and families often lack the knowledge or tools to identify when someone in their care is in the process of radicalisation. The trainings for educators are offered alongside awareness events for students and their parents. Since the beginning of the year, 580 high school and university students have been brought together in seminars and workshops to discuss the difficult subject of radicalisation.