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Can a terrorist be rehumanized?

Can a terrorist be rehumanized?

July 23, 2024

This is, by far, one of the big questions, not only at the level of terrorism but at the human level. Can someone change? The immediate response is obvious. The human being changes throughout his life, including can do it substantially from one day to the next if extreme events take place . After all, this is what psychological therapies seek, changing thoughts, emotions, behaviors and even changing the subject's brain in the direction that improves mental health.

To see how the brain is modified by psychotherapy, we recommend reading this article

But all these patterns of the individual can be seen metaphorically as a drug; the difficult thing is not to leave it, but to avoid relapse.

Former terrorists and their psychology

Arriving now to the subject that concerns us, we will try to return a terrorist to his human side and remove him from all the world in which he has submerged, but this is really difficult; because relapses also exist for them.

Before starting to detail the process, we must know two essential points already discussed in chapters I and II about terrorism:

  • The process under which, someone becomes a terrorist

Formerly, generalized methods were used to attract sympathizers for the cause. Nowadays, with the use of new technologies the situation is very different, but s igue having a general scheme consisting of four phases . The function of these is to progressively submerge the victim in a new world based on violence and dehumanization, until becoming a terrorist.

  • The profile of victims who become terrorists

Today, the terrorists in charge of recruiting new followers focus their efforts on knowing the victims in a personalized way, to "hook" them more easily. So, it sounds reasonable to think that if the new adept became a terrorist because they persuaded him in a "personalized" way, The therapy you receive should also be personalized .

  • The case of Michael Muhammad Knight, a western boy who joined the Daesh

In fact, in a previous post of Psychology and Mind We already talked about a real case of a western boy, apparently in his right mind, who decided to join the terrorist group Islamic State . His reasons and motivations are surprising.

Phases for rehumanization

The process, always adapted to the idiosyncrasies of each individual, is made up of the following three phases. We must bear in mind something very important during the whole process: We can not achieve a change using the rational way. The subjects in these circumstances will always fight the reasoning of others with their beliefs, as if it were propaganda broadcast by a speaker. But not only this; Throughout the process, which usually lasts a long time to achieve a nuclear change in the person, at no time can you try to change your mind using the reason since, each time this is done, it is a step backwards for the change.

So, what is there to do? Opt for the emotional path .

1st phase: Emotional reactivation

This stage serves as a base and focuses on rebuilding the emotional ties between the victim (who had become a supporter of the terrorist group) and his family. The key lies in reactivating memories and emotional ties. The difficulty is that these memories have been buried. Another point that makes the process even more difficult is the fact that the families, who ask for help in these cases, when they do, the victim is already at a very advanced stage.

Although most of these people (especially young people) no longer see their parents as such, the human brain always leaves small traces of the past. These traces lead to memories, which despite being in the deepest, can be revived at any time.

For it, It is necessary that the relatives do their part and try to resurface these happy emotional memories in your child. In addition, as we have already mentioned, at no time should you try to persuade by the rational way.

This process must be covered, for now, by the relatives on their own, since the intervention by third parties is often counterproductive, increasing the defenses on the part of the victim. A very simple exercise and surprising results, for example, put a great image of when he was small in the fridge.

When this point is reached, the victim slightly resensified , usually reluctant to participate in support groups. This step must be immediate so as not to lose the opportunity that months of work have cost.

The author of these studies tells us the following case:

"A young man in the process of radicalization had focused his rejection speech on alcohol. His personal jihad consisted of removing from the home the slightest trace of that substance. Deodorants, perfumes and food products had to be eliminated. His parents had been struggling for several months to provoke an emotional reaction in his son. Until Mother's Day arrived. The boy gave him a bottle of perfume. The woman called us in tears at once. "In about two hours we will be there," he replied.

2nd phase: Confrontation with reality

This second phase uses the support therapies to improve the situation of the victim . The components of them will be other ex-recruits of the jihad that have already been rehabilitated. They must expose why they came out of that dark world; transmitting the contradictions they found in him and the lies they had been told since nothing was as they had been promised.

They will also explain the stages they went through to be indoctrinated. But the central element that works is to make him see that he will never find what he needs by being one of them. It is now when the person who aspired to become a terrorist start thinking again for yourself . But there is still a long way to go; around six more months.

It is common at this stage that the person suffers an ambivalence, the result of the conflict that is living. A real case of a young man who suffered this situation relates as follows:

"One day I told myself that my recruiters were terrorists, bloodthirsty executioners, capable of playing football with freshly severed heads. I wondered how they could talk about religion. However, an hour later I was convinced that those who claimed my apostasy were in the pay of the Zionists, so it was necessary to massacre them. "

3rd and last phase: The saving uncertainty

In the final phase the sessions with the exreclutes are maintained . The central objective now is to achieve a sustained state of doubt to avoid a relapse into radicalization.

At the beginning of this phase, the subjects find it difficult to pay full attention to the doubts that are assailing them, but, little by little, and combining them with the emotional support of the family and the ex-recruits, these doubts accumulate.

According to researcher Bouzar, most of the people she has worked with have achieved it. But, at the same time, he warns:

"Each week we receive the call of five families to denounce a process of radicalization [...] this figure only represents an emerging portion of the iceberg."

Bibliographic references:

  • Bouzar, D. (2015) Comment sortir de l'emprise djihadiste? Les Editions de l'Atelier.
  • Bouzar, D. (2015) Take off from the jihadist networks. Dounia Bouzar in MyC nº76,
  • Bouzar, D. (2015) La vie aprés Daesh. Les Éditions de l'Atelier,
  • Schäfer, A. (2007) The seed of violence. Annette Schäfer in MyC nº27,

Vikar - I Was A Terrorist #CreatorsForChange (July 2024).

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