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Geneva, 17 June 2014 – The radicalization and recruitment of young people to fight in conflict zones in the Middle East constituted the main issue of a side event organized by our Institute during the 26th session of the Human Rights Council. The discussion highlighted the need to change the common perception of these young fighters.

During the discussion moderated by Mrs. Margaux Scherrer, Project Manager at the IIPJHR, the panel analyzed the radicalization affecting some young people, turning them into fighters in conflict zones of the Middle East. The panel’s approach took into account the security perspective – main concern of states – as well as the social and familial perspectives.

Dr. Imène Ajala, Project Manager at the IJPJHR, focused on the challenges for the states and families presented by the return (or non-return) of young fighters. Addressing these issues is complicated by the plurality and complexity of the situations. She concluded on the issue of terminology as another challenge to be faced, considering the need to rename these young fighters as “neo-mercenaries”.

Mrs. Dominique Bons, President of the Association “Syrien ne bouge agissons”, which she created herself after her son and his half-brother’s disappearance in Syria in 2013, shared her story with the audience. She insisted on the necessity to unite the families facing the same tragedy and called to differentiate victims of indoctrination from experienced fighters.

Mrs. Houda Ben Youssef, Secretary General of the Arab Family Organization, said that “danger looms” and it is urgent to act. She stressed the essential role that family and education have to play.

The International Institute for Peace, Justice and Human Rights will follow up on this event in September by discussing the role of the Internet in radicalization.