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Terrorism Prevention, Intervention, and Rehabilitation with Juveniles

Date and time: September 23, 2020, 11 am Eastern Daylight Time (UTC-4)

Register here [1].

Many discussions of terrorist rehabilitation separate individuals into three (if not two) categories: Men, women and children. Because most of the children in the Syrian Democratic Forces camps are quite young and many were born or brought into ISIS by foreign fighter parents. They can objectively only be seen as purely victims, yet given strong views about their ISIS parents, most have not been repatriated or received adequate care for health, nutrition and the traumas they have undergone. As they grow older in dire circumstances they are exposed to ISIS enforcers who spread the ideology and try to lure them into the group. A nine-year-old American boy who spent a year in these camps had been forced to appear in an ISIS video threatening the U.S. but is thankfully now repatriated and receiving care. The U.S. Department of Defense warns that if not repatriated and addressed we may face these children on the terrorist battleground in the future.

In comparison to young children, older teenagers in ISIS were often conscripted or seduced into fighting with the adult men and to carry out executions and other heinous acts. If repatriated they may face prosecution as adults for terrorist crimes. The strong societal hatred and revulsion for ISIS makes careful age-appropriate treatment and care that addresses the unique vulnerabilities and experiences of juveniles in terrorist groups like ISIS at present lacking in many cases, although the Autonomous Administration of Northeast Syria [AANES] has attempted such treatment for older juveniles held in NES.

Beyond questions of treatment and rehabilitation for juveniles who have already joined terrorist groups, there is a clear need for prevention and intervention strategies that are tailored specifically to children and teenagers. It is critical to understand the developmental needs of children and teens and how terrorist groups manipulate both. Likewise, it is also crucial to understand what makes juveniles different from adults, even when they are in their late teens, bearded, and with a criminal history, and we cannot paint them entirely as victims. It is perhaps in these situations that we need most to take a juvenile-specific perspective.

At ICSVE’s eighth Zoom panel, join Peta Lowe and Dr. Anne Speckhard to discuss issues of assessment and intervention with juveniles, in both diversionary and rehabilitative settings. The discussion will focus on the critical work of steering young people away from violent extremism and giving them proper treatment and reintegration strategies when they do become involved and if and when they are repatriated from the battle zones.

Peta Lowe is a Principal Consultant with Phronesis Consulting and Training in Australia. She is the former Director, Countering Violent Extremism for Juvenile Justice in the NSW Department of Justice. Peta has over 15 years experience working with young people who display violent and anti-social offending behaviours in both custodial and community contexts. She has worked with individuals, families and communities to address offending behaviours and criminogenic risks. Peta graduated from Newcastle University in 2005 with a Bachelor of Social Work (Honours Class I), from Charles Sturt University in 2010 with a Masters of Social Work (Advanced Practice/Couples and Family Therapy Specialisation), from Queensland University of Technology in 2016 with a Graduate Certificate in Business (Public Sector Management) and most recently in 2018 from Charles Sturt University with a Masters in Terrorism and Security Studies (Postgraduate University Medal). Peta led the Juvenile Justice NSW responses to countering violent extremism and counter terrorism including the assessment, intervention and management of young people charged with terrorism related offences in both community and custody and agency responses to manage the risk of radicalisation to violent extremism within custodial settings. Peta is trained and experienced in the use of a number of violent extremist risk assessment tools and has conducted and coordinated assessments of juvenile terrorism related offenders and young people vulnerable to being radicalised to violent extremism. She has also provided training to a range of professionals to use the VERA-2R risk assessment tool within Australia on behalf of Department of Home Affairs. Peta continues to present at a range of conferences and forums on young people and violent extremism, terrorism and radicalisation and assessment of terrorism offenders. Peta now consults and advises to a range of international, national and state organisations on violent extremism, terrorism and young people. She is an expert consultant with the International Institute for Justice and the Rule of Law (IIJ), assisting in the development and delivery of training to international lawmakers, police, prosecutors, judges, corrections officials, and other justice sector stakeholders on good practices in Juvenile Justice in a counter terrorism context as part of their Juvenile Justice Initiative. As a Specialist Consultant for The Commonwealth Secretariat, she is currently working on a project to develop ‘Guidelines for Managing Return from Violent Extremism and Terrorism’ for Commonwealth member countries. Peta has written for the Australian Strategic Policy Institute’s, Counter terrorism Yearbook 2020 and continues to write and speak publicly about the risks and opportunities of working with youth in the context of violent extremism. Additionally, she continues to work as a practitioner, providing assessments and interventions for adults and juveniles who have committed terrorism related offences, or who are at risk or vulnerable to radicalisation to violent extremism. Peta is currently focused on developing and delivering training and education as well as assessment and interventions to; improve social cohesion, divert vulnerable young people from violent extremism, disengage and rehabilitate juvenile terrorism related offenders and reduce the risk violent extremism and terrorism in all forms poses to individuals and community safety.

Dr. Anne Speckhard is Director of the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism (ICSVE) and serves as an Adjunct Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Georgetown University School of Medicine. She has interviewed over 700 terrorists, their family members and supporters in various parts of the world including in Western Europe, the Balkans, Central Asia, the Former Soviet Union and the Middle East. In the past five years, she has interviewed 247 ISIS defectors, returnees and prisoners as well as 16 al Shabaab cadres and their family members (n=25) as well as ideologues (n=2), studying their trajectories into and out of terrorism, their experiences inside ISIS (and al Shabaab), as well as developing the Breaking the ISIS Brand Counter Narrative Project materials from these interviews which includes over 200 short counter narrative videos of terrorists denouncing their groups as un-Islamic, corrupt and brutal which have been used in over 150 Facebook and Instagram campaigns globally. She has also been training key stakeholders in law enforcement, intelligence, educators, and other countering violent extremism professionals, both locally and internationally, on the psychology of terrorism, the use of counter-narrative messaging materials produced by ICSVE as well as studying the use of children as violent actors by groups such as ISIS. Dr. Speckhard has given consultations and police trainings to U.S., German, UK, Dutch, Austrian, Swiss, Belgian, Danish, Iraqi, Jordanian and Thai national police and security officials, among others, as well as trainings to elite hostage negotiation teams. She also consults to foreign governments on issues of terrorist prevention and interventions and repatriation and rehabilitation of ISIS foreign fighters, wives and children. In 2007, she was responsible for designing the psychological and Islamic challenge aspects of the Detainee Rehabilitation Program in Iraq to be applied to 20,000 + detainees and 800 juveniles. She is a sought after counterterrorism expert and has consulted to NATO, OSCE, the EU Commission and EU Parliament, European and other foreign governments and to the U.S. Senate & House, Departments of State, Defense, Justice, Homeland Security, Health & Human Services, CIA, and FBI and appeared on CNN, BBC, NPR, Fox News, MSNBC, CTV, CBC and in Time, The New York Times, The Washington Post, London Times and many other publications. She regularly writes a column for Homeland Security Today and speaks and publishes on the topics of the psychology of radicalization and terrorism and is the author of several books, including Talking to Terrorists, Bride of ISIS, Undercover Jihadi and ISIS Defectors: Inside Stories of the Terrorist Caliphate. Her publications are found here [3] and on the ICSVE website [4].