Moez al-Fezzani, a Tunisian citizen popularly known by his initial nom de guerre Abu Nassim, was arrested with other Daesh-Isis members in Sirte, between Rigdaleen and Al Jimail, Libya, on August 18, 2016. Already taken to trial in Italy for terrorist recruitment, Abu Nassim was obviously acquitted in Milan – a city which, since the time of the Mosque in Viale Jenner, is “the main centre of Al Qaeda in Europe”, as stated in a CIA report of ten years ago.
The Islamic Cultural Institute (ICI) in Milan was created in 1988, upon the initiative of some members of the Egyptian movement Jamaa al Islamiya. It immediately became a center to gather, train and fund the Islamists going to fight in Bosnia.
A stupid Western war enabling Alja Izetbegovic – the leader of the Bosnian Republic of Sarajevo, as well as author of a book prophetically entitled “Islamic fundamentalism” – to create an Islamist area in the Balkans serving the interests of Afghanistan, Chechnya, Al Qaeda (at the time, Bin Laden was often in Sarajevo) and Kosovars.
At the time, the cells and training camps of ICI – which enjoyed strange, but large amounts of money – were in Gallarate, Como, Varese and Cremona.
Considering Pareto’s theory of the persistence of aggregates, it would be nice to keep on following these groups, even though it results that ICI was dismantled.
Hence, at first, we must note the strange persistence of terrorist networks.
In Catalonia there was the Algerian citizen Bellil Belgacem, working for a halal butcher of Vilanova i la Geltrù, who organized the attack on our base at Nasiriyah. Later Belgacem was also in Milan – Viale Jenner, of course – before finally arriving in Syria from where he perpetrated the attack on our base in Iraq, by killing 19 Italian soldiers.
The “foreign” jihadists are those who usually organize terrorist attacks, as it is likely that their cover in the attack area is known to the local intelligence services.
Nevertheless the great cover and motivation networks – another key factor for assessing the jihad – remain, assuming that there are no serious threats of infiltration or dismantling.
Belkacem was identified because – as always happens – the Italian intelligence services had sent biological material of the attacker also to the Spanish Guardia Civil that unexpectedly solved the problem.
The house where the terrorists who organized the attack in Barcelona lived is another factor of the persistence of networks, owned by Mohamed Mrabet Fahsi, the Head of the cell held responsible for the terrorist attack in the Atocha station, Madrid, on March 11, 2004.
The “journalists” who killed Shah Massoud, also known as the Lion of Panjshir, one day before the 9/11 attack, by asking him as first question – a second before killing him – “Why are you so upset with Osama Bin Laden?” came from Moleenbeek, the municipality in the Brussels-Capital Region which was to become even more notorious years later.
Hence the first factor is the persistence of networks, but only if the network is wide, reliable and capable of mobilizing a sufficiently large cover area, made up of Islamists who never mobilize for the “infidels” or of smart manipulators, as is often the case with the members of the Muslim Brotherhood, who weaken and defuse the attacks and sometimes attribute them to “Islamophobia”.
But the history of jihadist threats to Italy is long and overlaps with the actions which have been carried out by Al Qaeda and Daesh-Isis in the rest of Europe for too many years.
The first major report in Italy’s recent history dates back to March 2014, when the Moroccan intelligence services alerted the Italian ones, thus avoiding three attacks by the skin of their teeth – in the Milan subway, in the Basilica of St. Anthony, Padua and in the Church of St. Petronius, Bologna.
The Church in Bologna is well-known for its fresco portraying Muhammad in Hell (Canto XXVIII of Dante’s Divine Comedy), as sower of discord, together with Ali, the first Shi’a Imam.
Another constant feature is the choice of highly symbolic or highly damaging targets for the “infidels” so as to spread the terror which blocks the opponents’ reactions and intimidates them.
The symbolism is for internal use and unites the jihadists in an apparently “high” purpose.
Then the jihad rank-and-file comes in to play down, hide and relativize.
Hence either mass – the maximum amount of victims – or symbol, namely the destruction of the true or alleged anti-Islamic image.
Moreover, in the Hell – Canto XXVIII, Muhammad tells Dante to warn the schismatic and heretic Frà Dolcino.
Hence should there be an alliance between the Islamists and the followers of the Piedmontese heretic of Valsesia?
Furthermore, at the time, the front cover of the official magazine of Al Baghdadi’s Caliphate, Dabiq, showed the black flag of the Syrian-Iraqi Caliphate flying atop the Egyptian obelisk at St Peter’s Square in the Vatican.
What is the symbol for? Simply for showing the policy line to the militants, i.e. to hit the Church and nothing else; to later terrorize the enemy, according to the warfare technique indicated by the Qur’an and the ahadit and finally to mislead the opponent’s operations.
War is deception, a Koranic theme that must be never forgotten.
In that phase, not long after the 2001 attack on the Jemaa el Fna square in Marrakesh, the Moroccan intelligence services that had warned Italy also neutralized 126 jihadist cells, arrested 2,676 Daesh-Isis militants and nipped 276 attacks in the bud.
Another constant feature of jihadist terrorism is that it is created and recreated at great speed, so as to confuse the opponents, direct them towards “old” networks and conceal networks while preparing the attacks.
Throughout 2015, Twitter and other social media published photos with Isis militants appearing in front of political, mass and historical-artistic sites in Italy with the hashtag “We_Are_Coming_O_Rome” or “Islamic State in Rome”.
We have never had doubts on the active presence of jihadist networks in Italy.
In fact, last May a network of illegal migrant traffickers between Bari, Catania and Salerno was dismantled – a network of Somalis who had contacts with groups of jihadists they probably funded thanks to the proceeds of their trafficking.
Apart from the small talk of “misguided idealists” or of incompetent politicians, it is obvious that illegal immigration covers up the creation of jihadist groups in Italy, initially divided by ethnicity and subsequently funded by international jihad networks.
“We are coming, o Rome” (“and we will slaughter you in your own houses”) is a technically easy-to-identify hashtag on Twitter and finally refers to the presence of the “Islamic State in Rome”.
A major identity (the struggle against the Catholic Church) linked to a minor identity: every militant knows what to do and what to do is indicated by the reality in which the jihad operates: attacks with knives, propane and methane gas cylinders or with mobiles to be used as remote trigger.
The jihad is camouflage, but it is the explicit goal that must be reached. There is no camouflage or deception here.
Therefore another permanent feature of European jihad is, at first, the great attack, mobilizing the Islamic masses and ensuring their loyalty, by exciting and inflaming them, and later the microphysics of power established by “do-it-yourself” terrorism.
Last February, the “Caliphate” published a text written in good Italian by a Mr. Mehdi, entitled “Lo Stato Islamico, una realtà che ti vorrebbe comunicare”, much focused on the “services to citizens”.
It was later discovered that said Mr. Mehdi was Elmahdi Alili, a 20-year-old Italian citizen of Moroccan origin.
In said text Alili also threatened to fire Caliphate’s missiles against Sicily.
We will see how the old Islamic conquest of Sicily is a myth equivalent to that of Al Andalus in Spain – a myth to which Osama Bin Laden was already referring in his first proclamations.
Therefore the first Daesh-Isis texts on Spain are of January 7, January 31 and May 30, 2016, respectively, with a very high climax of videos and messages in the networks managed by Daesh, just before the Barcelona attacks.
At first the people are motivated and given general orders; later the network is organized and finally the green light is given.
What about Italy? From June 3 to 7 last, Isis-Daesh produced three propaganda videos and a PDF file – two of those videos referred to Rome.
The images are very recent, shot in motion and at night. The videos have titles referring to Italy, such as “Deadline Rome”, while the PDF file is entitled “You want Raqqa, we want Rome”.
But Raqqa is now lost – hence the conquest of Rome seems to be a sort of revenge and reconstruction of the Caliphate among the “infidels”.
Hence the first video, translated from Arabic into English, is “Deadline Rome”, but the word “deadline” has also other meanings in English.
All these videos are produced by the Al Waad Foundation (“Commitment/Promise”), an unofficial structure linked to Daesh-Isis.
The analysis of the video makes us revert to the Libyan issue, the current key factor of the connection between the global jihad and Italy.
In fact, Isis fears a primary role played by Italy in supporting al-Sarraj’s Government of National Accord (GNA). Then the Caliphate calls the “brothers” to take up arms to spread the jihad in Libya and finally recalls Al Libi, the ”heir” to Bin Laden.
Another sign not to be overlooked is that – following the jihadist tradition – the “Caliphate” refers to a battle of the Prophet, namely Khandaq or the “Battle of the Trench”.
Meccans and infidels on the one side, Medinan Muslims and newly-converted on the other.
A battle to be studied symbolically, but also practically: the 3,000 followers of the Prophet defending Medina remained holed up without accepting the clash with the overwhelming forces of the “infidels”.
This is obviously the image of the current Syrian-Iraqi Caliphate.
After Muhammad’s order to dig a trench to avoid the Meccans’ cavalry, the siege continued.
But the Jewish tribe Banu Qurayza refused to collaborate with the Prophet, as it had previously promised.
Hence it was accused of betrayal.
The symbolism is clear.
The “Caliphate” propaganda on Rome continues with “we will conquer Rome, Constantinople and Jerusalem”.
The possible meaning is the following: we will start from Rome, home to the “Crusaders” and later we will continue with Byzantium and Judaism.
Finally the PDF file shows the Colosseum and the Theater of Marcellus and it has been put online by the Al Wafa Foundation, an official organization of Daesh-Isis.
Here again there is a reference to the Quraysh tribe, the Meccans rejecting Muhammad’s Prophecy.
Is this the sign of an internal debate, probably between militants of the Syrian-Iraqi “State” and the jihadists who want to operate in Europe?
Staying or going away – thus turning Daesh-Isis into a global terrorist agency, such as the old Al Qaeda – or calling all the jihadists already present in Europe to return to its territorial area, only after their carrying out an attack or at least a personal war action against the “infidels”?
Is it a simple indication of the “enemy” to be successful in some operations or is it a geopolitical project starting from resistance in Raqqa and in the rest of the Daesh region?
Or – as the second video entitled “Between two Migrations” shows – the jihadists are explicitly asked to return to the “Caliphate”, in addition to showing the images of Pope Francis’s visit to Lesbos while migrants seem to refuse and criticize the Holy Father’s visit.
Let us analyze data: the first regards migrants – hence the Caliphate works on the assumption that there is a share of migrants currently present in Italy who could reunite with the territorial jihad. The second is the rejection of Pope Francis’ “open hand policy”, which could be successful in some regions of the Muslim world.
This means that the jihadists are said: carry out the great attack you are already preparing and then come here.
The third video entitled “Ramadan, the Month of Conquest” explains with many historical data the Islamic conquest of Sicily. Then a boot appears on the image of Italy and finally the word Rome comes to the screen.
Last March a rather strange video was put online, subtitled in Arabic and English, in which one of the two jihadists spoke only the sign language.
I am not an expert of this language, but it is very likely that the signs say much more than expected.
This video for deaf-mutes is again a call to move to the Syrian-Iraqi Caliphate – possibly after perpetrating an attack – with unspecific threats to the United States, Great Britain, Italy and France, always repeating the usual slogan “we will come and kill you”.
Hence either the jihadists are rounded up and gathered to create critical mass at a time when – only thanks to Russia and its regional allies – the Caliphate is surrendering, or the jihadists who have remained in the Isis-Daesh region are said to go and destroy European countries.
The ambiguity is obviously desired.
However, it was in April 2015 (which makes us think that the attack was closer than expected, considering the time of the traditional connection between the threat on the web and the perpetration of the terrorist attack) that Al Baghdadi’s Caliphate put online a video in Arabic, but fully subtitled in Italian.
It was designed both for the Italian Arabs and for the young people not yet mastering the Koranic language.
In fact, it was produced as a good music video.
“Like a thunderbolt you will see the war in your countries”. “We will come to spread slaughter and death”.
These are the two poles of propaganda.
The sharp knives are mentioned, to which we have already got used.
There is the precise indication of a weapon.
The video subtitled in Italian refers to “balls of fire”, which may be bullets or bombs.
This is an indication movie – with the true indication of the end times.
Without eschatology we cannot understand the contemporary jihad, also in its aspects of McIslam which, in other contexts, could make us laugh.
With this specific propaganda the “Caliphate” wants to say that its militants must take action soon, as soon as possible.
Again in November 2015 a series of particularly cruel photos referring to Italy were spread via Twitter together with horrible threats.
In that case the jihadists who must arrive in Italy are said to act quickly, so as to prepare the attack and remain unknown to the police and the intelligence services (in fact, it is clearly said “we will come to kill you”) or the jihadists who are preparing a terror attack are told it must be extremely fierce.
What if the Caliphate – today floundering in a crisis between Syria and Iraq – wanted to create pockets of ongoing destabilization in Europe, to be connected from corridors or small control areas – as it did in its Middle East territory?
Europe is so weak and uncertain that not even this option can be ruled out.
Finally, in my opinion, little analytical value can be attributed to the interpretation of the current jihad – at least from the Nice to the Barcelona attacks – as an internal struggle between Qatar and Saudi Arabia and its allies, using the Islamist terrorist network.
Certainly, these two countries have huge real estate, hotel and industrial property in Italy and Europe.
But a terrorist operation in the Porta Nuova district, Milan – bought by Qatar – would bear a too clear signature.
And either of the two countries could really strike the final blow on the Caliphate they both have so much supported.
And yet both countries currently keep on helping the “Caliphate” – hence the structure of Al Baghdadi, now dead, has no interest in supporting one against the other.
I know that terrorists are always more informed about their targets than we may believe: I had a bad experience with the so-called “New Red Brigades”. I was first on the list, but the then National Police Chief, Vincenzo Parisi, informed me of everything our National Security Network came to know.
Moreover, strange events still occur, such as the fact of a journalist denying the Shoah who was found to be a friend of the founder of the above-mentioned New Red Brigades, namely Nadia Lioce.
Stateless and Leftover ISIS Brides
While the World is busy fighting the pandemic and the economic devastation caused by it, one of the important problem that has been pushed to dormancy, is the status of the ISIS(Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) brides. The Pandemic has crippled the capacity of the law enforcement and exploiting this the ISIS executed attacks in Maldives, Iraq, and the Philippines. The United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has warned that terrorists are exploiting the COVID-19 Pandemic. Albeit the ISIS has been defeated, approximately ten thousand of them are in ISIS detention centres in Northern Syria under Kurds. Most of these detention centres are filled by women and children, who are relatives or widows of the ISIS fighters. With their native states denouncing them, the status of the stateless women and children is unclear.
As it stands today states’ counter-terrorism approach has been primarily targeting male militants but women also have played a role in strengthening these terrorist organizations. Women involvement in militant organizations has increased as they perform several activities like birthing next-generation militants/jihadists, managing the logistics and recruiting the new members to the organizations. The world did not recognize women as key players in terrorist organizations until the 1980s when females held major roles in guerilla wars of southern America. Women have either willingly or unwillingly held a variety of roles in these extremist organizations and Islamist terrorist organizations like Hamas and al-Qaeda women do simply provide moral support.
According to the media reports since the US withdrawal from Iraq in 2006 female suicide attacks have been increased and they have been extensively part of ISIS. The ISIS had a female brigade which they called as Al-Khansaa which was established to perform search activities in the state. Both foreign and domestic recruits in the Islamic state have participated in brutal torture. A recently acquired logbook from a guesthouse in Syria provides important information about 1100 females who joined the organization, the western women who are called as ‘the muhajirat’.
When the people from rest of the world joined organizations such as ISIS, they burnt their passports and rejected their national identity. Especially women from western countries who were radicalized online based on their phenomenon ‘ISIS brides/Jihadi brides’ to marry terrorists. Since Islamic State isnot recognized by the world these marriages are not legally valid, apart from this a number of these brides have experienced sexual torture and extreme violence.
While the erstwhile members of the extremist organizations like ISIS and others are left adrift the one challenging question remaining is should states and their societies keep them and reengage or rehabilitate or prosecute them. How firmly the idea of their erstwhile organization is stuck in their minds and especially the followers who crossed the world to join remains a concern to many. The U.S backed Kurdish forces across turkey border hold thousands of these left-behind women and children in their centre. Hundreds of foreign women and children who were once part of an aspirant state, The caliphate are now floating around the concentration camps in Syria, Turkey and Kurdish detention centres and prisons. Many are waiting to return to their origin countries. They pose a unique challenge to their native states like whether to include them or not and even if they include how to integrate adults who at least for a time part of these terrorist organizations and what to do with children who are too young to understand the politics and obstacles keeping them in camps and detention centres where resources are scarce. Women present a problem because its hard to know what kind of crimes they have committed beyond the membership of the terrorist organization.
It is no secret that women also have been part of insurgency across the world, like in ISIS,LTTE,PIRA and PFLP. The responsibility of women in ISIS includes wife to ISIS soldiers, birthing the next generation of jihad and advancing ISIS’ global reach through online recruiting. The International Center for Study of Radicalization (ICAR) estimates that out of 40000 people joined ISIS from 80 different countries nearly 8000 are women and children. After the defeat of ISIS and such extreme organization those who are left behind possess the ideological commitment and practical skills which again a threat upon return to home countries.
The states across the world are either revoking the citizenship or ignore their responsibility. The most famous case of Shamima Begum a UK citizen married to an ISIS fighter whose citizenship was revoked by the UK government. In other cases like HodaMuthana of the USA and Iman Osman of Tunisia have been the same case. As recently as Tooba Gondal an ISIS bride who now in a detention camp in northern Syria begged to go home in the UK in a public apology.
The American president Donald Trump issued a statement saying women who joined ISIS cannot return. The NATO deputy head said “…returning ISIS fighters and brides must face full rigours of the law”. Revoking the citizenship and making someone stateless is illegal under international law and it is also important to know how gendered these cases are because the UK have successfully prosecuted Mohammad Uddin and the USA has also done it so. Stripping off their citizenship itself a punishment before proper trail and the only good out of it would state can take their hands off in dealing with cases. Samantha Elhassani the only American who repatriated from Iraq so far and pleaded guilty for supporting ISIS. Meanwhile, France is trying to route its citizens who joined the ISIS and extradited few who are under trial in Bagdad.
As experts and political analysts say “countries should take responsibility for their own citizens” because failure to do so will also make the long term situation more dangerous as jihadists will try to a hideout and turn into militant groups for their protection. The children, the second-generation ISIS need cultural centres and rehabilitation centres and this is an international problem. These women known as jihadists brides suffer from a post-traumatic stress disorder and many are pregnant or multiple children born in ISIS territory.
In some countries travelling abroad to join the insurgencies in North Africa and Syria was not always a criminal act, Sweden criminalized such act recently but to prosecute them proof of offences committed in the conflict zone is difficult to collect and most countries in the world do not allow the pre-trial detention for more than 14 days. With problems of different national Lawson extradition and capital punishment and to prosecute them in conflict countries is also a challenge for states. Since Kurdish forces have signalled that they cannot bring all the prisoners into justice the home countries will have to act or else it might create a long term dangerous situation. With the civil war in Syria is about to end it is time to address these issues because since there are more ISIS fighters in Kurdish prisons and detention centres they could be influenced to join rebels who are fighting the regime of Assad in last standing province of Idlib.
If the governments reject the repatriation applications then they will be signalling that their action is essential for national security and thus asserting that failed or poorly resourced states are better equipped to handle potential extremists. The criminal system in Iraq is corrupt and human rights violations have been reported and which creates the risk of further radicalization. One should not forget that even citizenship of Osama bin laden was also stripped but which did not stop him from forming al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. If the citizens commit crimes and forget their responsibility then the states must bring them to justice instead of stripping citizenship. The states must come with a solution for this problem before its too late, setting up an international tribunal to deal with these cases would be a great start but these tribunals are time-consuming and expensive.
States must act as a responsible actor in the international system. Jihadist terrorism is a global problem and states must act together to deal with it because with nearly 40000 fighters joining caliphate from across the world it only shows how global and deeply rooted the phenomenon is. Instead of stripping their citizens’ citizenship, states must find a way to act together for the peace and security of the international community.
COVID-19: Game-changer for international peace and security
The world has “entered a volatile and unstable new phase” in terms of the impact of COVID-19 on peace and security, the UN chief told a virtual meeting with world leaders on Wednesday.
Speaking at one of a series of international meetings among heads of State to enhance global cooperation in fighting terrorism and violent extremism, as part of the Aqaba Process, Secretary-General António Guterres said the pandemic was more than a global health crisis.
“It is a game-changer for international peace and security”, he spelled out, emphasizing that the process can play a key role in “promoting unity and aligning thinking” on how to beat back the pandemic.
Warning lights flashing
Mr. Guterres maintained that the coronavirus has exposed the basic fragility of humankind, laid bare systemic and entrenched inequalities, and thrust into the spotlight, geopolitical challenges and security threats.
“The warning lights are flashing”, he said, pointing out that as the virus is “exacerbating grievances, undermining social cohesion and fueling conflicts”, it is also likely to “act as a catalyst in the spread of terrorism and violent extremism”.
Moreover, international tensions are being driven by supply chain disruptions, protectionism and growing nationalism – with rising unemployment, food insecurity and climate change, helping to fuel political unrest.
A generation in crosshairs
The UN chief also noted that a generation of students is missing school.
“A whole generation…has seen its education disrupted”, he stated. “Many young people are experiencing a second global recession in their short lives.”
He explained that they feel left out, neglected and disillusioned by their prospects in an uncertain world.
Wanted: Global solidarity
The pandemic has highlighted vulnerabilities to emerging threats such as bioterrorism and cyber-attacks on critical infrastructure.
“The world faces grave security challenges that no single country or organization can address alone”, upheld the Secretary-General, “there is an urgent need for global unity and solidarity”.
Recalling the UN’s Virtual Counter-Terrorism Week in July, he reminded that participants called for a “reinvigorated commitment to multilateralism to combat terrorism and violent extremism”.
However, a lack of international cooperation to tackle the pandemic has been “startling”, Mr. Guterres said, highlighting national self-interest, transactional information sharing and manifestations of authoritarianism.
‘Put people first’
The UN chief stressed that “we must not return to the status quo ante“.
He outlined the need to put people first, by enhancing information sharing and technical cooperation “to prevent terrorists exploiting the pandemic for their own nefarious goals” and thinking “long-term solutions rather than short-term fixes”.
“This includes upholding the rights and needs of victims of terrorism…[and] the repatriation of foreign terrorist fighters, especially women and children, and their dependents to their countries of origin”, he elaborated.
Meanwhile, the risk of COVID-19 is exacerbating the already dire security and humanitarian situation in Syrian and Iraqi camps housing refugees and the displaced.
“The window of opportunity is closing so we must seize the moment”, the UN chief said. “We cannot ignore our responsibilities and leave children to fend for themselves and at the mercy of terrorist exploitation”.
He also expressed confidence that the Aqaba Process will continue to “strengthen international counter-terrorism cooperation, identify and fill capacity gaps, and address evolving security threats associated with the pandemic”, and offered the UN’s “full support”.
The Secretary-General also addressed the Centenary Summit of the International Organization of Employers (IOE) on how private and public sector cooperation can help drive post-COVID change.
He lauded the IOE’s “significant contributions” to global policymaking for economic and social progress, job creation and a mutually beneficial business environment, calling it “an important pillar of the International Labour Organization (ILO) since its earliest days”.
“Today, our primary task is to defeat the pandemic and rebuild lives, livelihoods, businesses, and economies”, he told the virtual Summit.
In building back, he underscored that workers and small business be protected, and everyone be given the opportunity to fulfil their potential.
The UN chief urged businesses to engage with the multilateral system to create a “conducive global environment for decent work, investment, and sustainability”; and with the UN at the national level, to help ensure that multilateralism “works on the ground”.
He also encouraged them to actively participate in national and global public-private dialogue and initiatives, stressing, “there must be space for them to do so”.
ILO chief Guy Ryder highlighted the need for “conscious policy decisions and tripartite cooperation to overcome transformational challenges”, such as technological change and climate change, as well as COVID-19.
Mr. Ryder also flagged that employers must continue to collaborate in social dialogue and maintain their commitment to both multilateralism and the ILO.
The IOE represents more than 50 million companies and is a key partner in the international multilateral system for over 100 years as the voice of business at the ILO, across the UN, the G20 richest countries and other emerging forums.
Traumas of terrorism cannot be erased, but victims’ voices must never be forgotten
In remembering and honouring all victims of terrorism, Secretary-General António Guterres said the UN stands by those who grieve and those who “continue to endure the physical and psychological wounds of terrorist atrocities”.
“Traumatic memories cannot be erased, but we can help victims and survivors by seeking truth, justice and reparation, amplifying their voices and upholding their human rights”, he stressed.
Keep spotlight on victims, even amid pandemic
This year’s commemoration takes place against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, when vital services for victims, such as criminal justice processes and psychosocial support, have been interrupted, delayed or ended as Governments focus attention and resources on fighting the pandemic.
Moreover, many memorials and commemorations have been cancelled or moved online, hampering the ability of victims to find solace and comfort together.
And the current restrictions have also forced the first-ever UN Global Congress of Victims of Terrorism has to be postponed until next year.
“But it is important that we keep a spotlight on this important issue,” stressed the UN chief.
“Remembering the victims of terrorism and doing more to support them is essential to help them rebuild their lives and heal”, said Mr. Guterres, including work with parliamentarians and governments to draft and adopt legislation and national strategies to help victims.
The Secretary-General vowed that “the UN stands in solidarity with all victims of terrorism – today and every day” and underscored the need to “ensure that those who have suffered are always heard and never forgotten”.
General Assembly President Tijjani Muhammad-Bande saluted the resilience of terrorist survivors and called the day “an opportunity to honour the memories of the innocent civilians who have lost their lives as a result of terrorist acts around the world”.
“Terrorism, in all forms and manifestations, can never be justified”, he stated. “Acts of terrorism everywhere must be strongly condemned”.
The UN commits to combating terrorism and the Assembly has adopted resolutions to curb the scourge while working to establish and maintain peace and security globally.
Mechanisms for survivors must be strengthened to safeguard a “full recovery, rehabilitation and re-integration into society through long-term multi-dimensional support”, stated the UN official.
“Together we can ensure that you live a full life defined by dignity and freedom. You are not alone in this journey. You are not forgotten”, concluded the Assembly president.
Closing the event, Vladimir Voronkov, chief of the UN Office of Counter-Terrorism, maintained that victims represent “the very human dimension of terrorism”.
While terrorists try to depersonalize victims by reducing them to mere numbers or statistics, Mr. Voronkov maintained that “we have a responsibility to do the exact opposite”.
“We must see victims’ hopes, dreams and daily lives that have been shattered by terrorist violence – a shattering that carries on long after the attack is over”, he stated. “We must ensure their human rights are upheld and their needs are met”.
While acknowledging the “terrible reality of terrorism”, Mr. Voronkov flagged that the survivors shine as “examples of resilience, and beacons of hope, courage and solidarity in the face of adversity”.
In reaffirming “our common humanity”, he urged everyone to raise awareness of victims needs and rights.
“Let us commit to showing them that they are not alone and will never be forgotten”, concluded the Counter-Terrorism chief.
At the virtual event, survivors shared their stories while under lockdown, agreeing that the long-term impacts of surviving any kind of an attack is that the traumatic experience never really goes away.
Tahir from Pakistan lost his wife in attack against the UN World Food Programme (WFP) office in Islamabad.
“If you have an accident, you know how to cope with it. Terminal illness, you know how to cope with it. But there is no coping mechanism for a person who dies in an act of terror”, he said.
Meanwhile Nigeel’s father perished in the 1998 US Embassy attack in Kenya, when he was just months years old.
The 22 year-old shared: “When you are growing, it really doesn’t have a heavy impact on you, but as life starts to unfold, mostly I’ll find myself asking if I do this and my dad was around, would he be proud of me?”
And Julie, from Australia, lost her 21-year-old daughter in the 2017 London Bridge attack.
“The Australian police came to our house and said ‘we have a body, still not confirmed’, so they recommended that we fly to London”, she recalled. “I can’t describe how devastating as a parent to lose a child in these circumstances is for the rest of your life”.
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