Podcast — Meet a RAN practitioner #3 — Anissa Akhandaf, Deradicalisation Programme Manager

Podcast — Meet a RAN practitioner #3 — Anissa Akhandaf, Deradicalisation Programme Manager


My name is Anissa. I’m from the city of Antwerp. Antwerp is a northern city in Belgium. It is in the Flemish region. It has five hundred thousand people and I work now there as a programme leader on the prevention of violent extremism. How do you tackle radicalisation in your work? What are the biggest challenges you face? We are working on two roads. Actually, we are working on a person focused approach. So, concerns about youngsters and also adults like above 18 years old until 25 years old. If you have a concern on radicalisation that he’s like isolated, he has an enemy kind of view on other humans and etc. and he’s in the process of perhaps going to a kind of violent extremism. You can utter your concern. We will exchange, and we will see how to help him. The other road is the group focused approach. In that sense, we try to raise awareness on violent extremism. And what you can do as a teacher, as a professional organisation to look at it on a rightful way because we do not need to have concerns given to us that has no – nothing to do with violent radicalisation. Are you dealing with all sorts of extremism, right-wing, far right-extremism? Jihadism? Yes. Our kind of tackling of violent extremism is principally open for all kinds of extremisms that might go into a violent way. Unfortunately, up to now and because of the Syrian situation of a couple of years ago, we only get a certain kind of … well, concerns on extremism. It is the Muslim extremism. So, we keep on telling about right-wing extremism, animal, far-right extremism. Also, defending animal rights by using violence, also, extreme left-extremism is also something that you need to focus on. Could you tell us about the challenges you encounter in the framework of your work. What is the most difficult for you? The most difficult is to get a wide range of concerns of extremism. So, that’s a challenge still today. Okay, that’s first. A second thing is what is a concern on words to violent extremism. Because extremism and violence is forbidden by law. But, what kind of concern do you need to give? What is the definition of violent extremism and a concern of that? Because sometimes we get concerns that have nothing to do with violent action. So, that’s a second challenge. A third challenge is those who radicalised in jails and they get free. How do you deal with that? Do we need to focus on those people too? And those people are mostly adults. How do you deal with adults? Youngsters, you can take them into trajectories, you can convince them. But adults, who are responsible, who are raising children – how do you deal with that? And then our last challenge is the challenge of those who are in Syria and regret of the choices that they make and they want to come back and also their children who had never a choice. What’s most rewarding about your work in tackling radicalisation? What do you like the most? I like the most the fact that it’s a very challenging job. A challenging job in the content: What is radicalisation? I like the jobs in which you walk on the edge, like what is diversity? What about people who need to be treated psychiatrically and with a diagnosis by a psychiatrist? And what is the other thing? So, these things I really consider as challenging. And of course, the fact that I work for a city, I have studied and I have chosen to work on city challenges. How has RAN helped you? Is there anything more you would like or expect from RAN? RAN definitely helped us, helped us also in the definition of radicalisation. What do you do? What is a problem in your city? So, bringing all these cities together and seeing their challenges and comparing your challenges with their challenges – it gives a comfort. Like okay, we’re on a good track here. They are seeing the same things. Okay. We are going doing good because they are doing the same thing. Okay. So, the RAN mostly is very enriching because of its intervision that it offers with people tackling the same challenges in their city. Okay. So that’s the first thing I would like to emphasise that RAN should continue the work that she has done in the past and that she should continue to bring us together to exchange these new challenges, to exchange their trial and error things so as to It’s also rewarding like it’s economising our money also because if it didn’t work in their situation, due to their every evaluation, we start with a fresher and a better informed kind of way of work. Is there anything more you expect from RAN? What I would like to see is more tools – operational tools that I could use. There are a lot of tools that they try to offer us, to exchange it, but perhaps we could work together on a tool, like what is radicalisation? What is European work practice of what is radicalisation within a democracy? For RAN is how would you place RAN within a global perspective of tackling radicalisation in various countries and not only democracies you know in Saudi Arabia – they are tackling with radicalisation also. And also, there is this tendency of securitising the world. So, how do we do qualitative work with the balance of helping and regarding security something like multi- agency approach. So, RAN should build bridges with other countries? Also. Absolutely! absolutely! And also look farther from their doors, not only European Union, we may learn from other big regions in the world how they do their work. This was Anissa Akhandaf. Programme Manager Deradicalisation, in the city of Antwerp, in Belgium. Anissa took part at the meeting of the RAN Local Working Group on far-right extremism on a local level. Please visit the website of the Radicalisation Awareness Network to find more information about its activities. And stay tuned for our next monthly interview podcast!

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