Into and Back Out of ISIS: An ISIS Defector Speaks Out

Date and time: Wednesday, July 22, 2020, 11 am to 12:30 pm, Eastern Daylight Time (UTC-4)

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ICSVE’s Anne Speckhard has spent decades interviewing terrorists all over the world, including 240 ISIS defectors, returnees, and imprisoned cadres. On July 22, one ISIS defector will speak about his life before ISIS, why he joined, what he experienced in the group, and why he left.

Oliver N. left Austria at only 16 to join ISIS. Upon return, he was convicted on terrorism charges and imprisoned. While in prison, he was a client of deradicalization expert Moussa Al-Hassan Diaw. Now released, Oliver explains how Moussa helped him change his life and free himself from ISIS’s violent interpretation of Islam. He now seeks to educate others about the circumstances under which he, as a young, impressionable and vulnerable boy, was lured into the tight-knit brotherhood of Salafists and eventually into ISIS.

Moussa spoke at ICSVE’s second Zoom panel, “Can an ISIS Terrorist Be Rehabilitated and Reintegrated into Society?” about his important work in Austrian prisons and with Austrian law enforcement. At this fifth panel, Moussa and one of his success stories will discuss their journey together, moderated by Dr. Speckhard.

Oliver N. is an Austrian ISIS returnee who served time in Austrian prison and is now interested to work against groups like ISIS. Oliver was a client of DERAD and worked with Moussa Al-Hassan Diaw to deradicalize and completely change his orientation to Islam and to Westerners in general. He now wants to help others and prevent ISIS recruitment, under the supervision of Moussa Al-Hassan Diaw. For his own protection, Oliver is appearing in this panel by audio only.

Moussa Al-Hassan Diaw, from Austria is the Founder and Chairman of DERAD Austria. He serves as an assignee and contractual partner of the Federal Ministry of Justice in Austria for deradicalization and prevention in prisons, interventions and training concerning jihadism and political Salafism. He has served as a consultant on religious extremism for the Chancellor of the State Brandenburg in Germany, as a teacher at the University of Education Linz, University Krems, and University Onasbruck, and as a trainer for police officers in Germany and Austria. He teaches at the University of Vienna and has published two scientific studies of extremists in Austria, one looking returnees and those who wanted to travel to ISIS and another looking at female extremists in Austria.

Dr. Anne Speckhard, Director of ICSVE Dr. Anne Speckhard, Director of ICSVE has in-depth interviewed over 700 terrorists and their close associates, family members and hostages if they have been suicide bombers (and already dead) from various parts of the Middle East, North Africa, Russia, Europe and the Balkans. Most recently she in-depth interviewed 240 ISIS prisoners, returnees and defectors. In 2007 she designed the psychological and Islamic challenge portions of what became the Detainee Rehabilitation Program to be applied to 23,000 detainees and 800 juveniles held by the U.S. forces in Iraq. She has consulted and conducted research regarding terrorism in prisons around the world. Dr. Speckhard will moderate the panel.

This is the fifth discussion in this series of panels discussing ISIS Foreign Fighters and terrorist rehabilitation. The first panel, “Issues of ISIS Prisoners & Repatriations in a Time of COVID,” can be reviewed here. The second panel, “Can an ISIS Terrorist be Rehabilitated and Reintegrated into Society?” featuring Redouan Safdi and Moussa Al-Hassan Diaw, can be reviewed here and the report that was inspired by this panel can be found here. The third panel, “Can We Repatriate the ISIS Children?” can be reviewed here and the report that was inspired by this panel can be found here. The fourth panel, “Terrorist Rehabilitation in the Dutch Prison System,” can be reviewed here.

The panel will each speak briefly and questions will be most welcome with a lively discussion to ensue! Questions can be posed using the Zoom chat feature or by Twitter to @ICSVE.

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