On Thursday July 12, 2018, the kick-off meeting of MEDIATE Project was held at Hotel Golden Tulip El Mechtel. The project is part of the EU’s Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace (IcSP) that aims at supporting security initiatives and peace building in Tunisia.
MEDIATE is a consortium action that involves a number of civil society organizations, which will seek according to their field of specialization, to complete a range of activities aimed at reducing the phenomenon of violent extremism through mediation.
Before beginning the first session, Mr. Bouraoui Ouni, meeting facilitator, called upon all participants and partners to stand for a minute’s silence for victims of the terrorist attack that targeted a patrol of the Tunisian National Guard in Ain Sultan area in Jendouba province on July 8, 2018….
Invited guests opened the meeting. They are presented as follows:
Mr. Abdelwahab Ben Hafaiedh (President of the Applied Social Sciences Forum), who delivered the opening speech during which he welcomed the attendees and representatives of the ministries and representatives of the national bodies, and the representative of the European Commission as the funding institution of the project. In addition, Mr. Hafaiedh referred to the importance of partnership between civil society institutions and national public institutions that have a direct relationship with the project’s components to help in the success of MEDIATE project, and thus reaching the goals that have been set in advance, and which consider the national interest. Pr. Abdelwahab Ben Hafaiedh also highlighted the link between mediation mechanisms and the issue of reducing the phenomenon of violent extremism. He stressed the multiplicity of the parties involved in reducing the phenomenon of violent extremism, which is not limited only to state institutions. Pr. Hafaiedh refereed to CAFA Network that securing an EU to carry on MEDIATE action. CAFA Network came to existence after of a series of regional meetings that involved more than a 102 associations.
Judge Mrs. Samia Daoula (CAFA President) introduced the network to the attendees. CAFA includes a group of civil society organizations. The network aims at setting standards by which the work of all constituents of the network is organized.
Mrs. Daoula added that CAFA Charter represents a moral and ethical commitment through which the programs and activities of CAFA and its employees are organized, in order to serve its objectives and principles as stipulated in the founding document. CAFA network works to achieve its aims by adopting three mechanisms:
- National research
- Development of preventive social action and speech
- Follow-up and monitoring
Mrs. Katariina Leinonen (responsible for the political section at the European Commission): Mrs. Leinonen spoke about the role of the European Commission in supporting civil society initiatives in Tunisia, which are part of the European Union’s work in support of conflict prevention, peace building and crisis preparedness and crisis management. Ms. Leinonen confirmed her support for the MEDIATE project and the suggestions that could emerge from such initiative. She also noted that it is high time for a bottom-up initiative that involves all actors.
Mr. Abdellatif Hannachi, Mr. Mohamed Lassaâd Dorbez (former adviser to the Prime Minister in charge of security and current adviser to the Tunisian Alternative Party), and Mr. Rafik Chelly (Former Secretary of State and Head of the Tunisian Center for Global Security Studies) highlighted the importance of security studies in light of the aggravation of the terrorism phenomenon. Mr. Chelly introduced the role of Center for security studies in MEDIATE project, but also its role as a Tunisian center that is concerned with the security issue at a time that witnesses multiple terrorist strikes on the most important pillars of state institutions represented in the security and military institutions.
Mr. Taoufik Bououn: (The Ministry of Relations with Constitutional Bodies, Civil Society and Human Rights) referred to the cooperation agreement with CAFA network and the importance of cooperation between the ministry and civil society institutions within the ministry scope of work. Mr. Bououn also considered the issue of violent extremism as a burning national issue that requires urgent and rapid intervention and not only to rely only on the security solution that has been adopted in some other initiatives..
Mr. Mokhtar Ben Nasser (President of the National Commission for the fight against terrorism) valued such initiatives and called for activating the role of civil society in dealing with the phenomenon of violent extremism and in collaboration with the Tunisian government. In the same context, former Brig. Gen. Mokhtar Ben Nasser emphasized the openness of the National Commission for the fight against terrorism to cooperate with civil society organizations within the scope of the Committee’s work and to activate the national strategy to combat terrorism and the role that civil society organizations can play in the success of this strategy.
After conclusion of opening statements, the Applied Social Sciences team presented a documentary entitled صمود “Resilience,” which included testimonials that offered ways to shift away from extremism, and analytical presentation from the perspective of realistic testimonies and from a group of experts and academicians.
Following the presentation of the documentary, comedian Raouf Ben Yaghlane presented his show “إرهابي الا ربع”, which presents the idea of the role of cultural mediation in creating a counter-radicalization discourse between the intellectual “artist” and the extremists, so that to help him or her turn away from non-violent paths that are hostile to the Tunisian context. Following this presentation, Mr. Raouf Ben Yaghlane thanked the Tunisian National Army and MEDIATE project team for arranging the organization of four performances for the play in Tunisian prisons. These performances will include discussions with the prisoners, as they are the most vulnerable to violent extremism within the prison environment.
The second part of the meeting was divided into three sessions, which focused on the three basic components of the project, namely:
- Research and renovation
- Training for social mediation
- Intervention and fieldwork (face to face)
Introducing the first component of MEDIATE Project on Research and renovation, the speakers in these sessions are listed below:
Mrs. Hasna Hussein President of ARACDRV (L’Association de Recherches et d’action sur le Contre-Discours Radical Violent), presented a content based research platform on Analytical Methods in Social Sciences and Humanities of jihadist literature aimed at combating radical discourse.
Mr. Abdelmajid Ben Hamadou (Digital Research Center of Sfax) spoke about their task in MEDITATE project, which is about developing digital means that are impervious to digital and social media recruitment. Mr. Abdelmajid Ben Hamadou pointed to the activities of the Center within the framework of the MEDIATE project, which are listed as follows:
- Analyzing user behavior in the social media by using BIGDATA.
- Developing a monitoring application designed to enable parents to have a digital means to prevent them from recruiting their children towards an extremist pathway that could take lead to violence.
- Developing educational games that transmit counter -extremism speech. These games will be published in educational institutions.
Mr. Mohamed Mathlouthi (The Applied Social Sciences Forum) presented the three basic components of the MEDIATE project, as well as the research activities of the Forum, namely, the completion of two rounds of a survey on Tunisian citizens’ perceptions of the phenomenon of violent extremism, as well as eight focus groups and analysis of information to be provided by The Digital Research Center of Sfax.
Introducing the second component of MEDIATE Project on Training for social mediation:
Mr. Adam Mokrani: (Program Coordinator, MEDIATE Project, Tunisian Center for Global Security Studies, Cultural Mediation Project).He introduced their participation the project, which is mentioned as follows:
– 4 training sessions for prisons’ and rehabilitation centers’ staff on dealing with prisoners in terrorist cases.
– Training of trainers for prisons’ and rehabilitation centers’ staff.
– 4 performances of the play “إرهابي إلا ربع” accompanied by panel discussions inside prisons.
Messrs. Slaheddine Al-Jourchi and Walid Ben Omrane: (Tunisian Center for Studies and Support of Democratic Decentralization and Local Development), who raised the issue of organizing training sessions for a group of young imams and preachers in ten Tunisian governorates. The Center also conducted a series of research sessions with the Ministry of Religious Affairs to discuss the content of the training session as well as to sign a cooperation agreement.
Mrs. Rabia Lourimi (Tunaruz Association): She introduced the work of Tunaruz association in collaboration with the Tunisian Center for Studies and Support of Democratic Decentralization and Local Development. Tunaruz association will take in charge to monitor the speeches of imam and preacher trainers who are part of the training sessions conducted by the Center. This will be done during radio programs in public and private, local or national radio stations.
Mr. Ridha Tlili (Tlili Foundation) The project of the training of imams. Mr. Ridha Tlili explained the experience of training imams in the framework of a previous project that Tlili Foundation and that explored the weaknesses and strengths of their organization. He also suggested more coordination with MEDIATE project in order to avoid repeating the same mistakes.
Introducing the third component of MEDIATE Project on Intervention and Fieldwork, this session included the speeches by the Tunisian Scouts Organizations, the Tunisian Association for Citizenship, Youth and Skills Association and Tunisia Plus Association:
Mr. Dhafer Tamimi (The Tunisian Scouts Organization) introduced the peace camps project, which will include 24 Tunisian governorates, in both urban and rural areas, during which youth scouts will organize sensitization meetings aimed at spreading the counter-extremism discourse at the local level.
Mr. Houcine Karim Glaied: (Tunisian Association of Citizenship) explained how the activities of the Association are focused on training listening experts during three training sessions, two of which have been already completed. A series of hearing sessions were organized in coordination with the Directorate General of Prisons and Rehabilitation and the National Commission on Counter-Terrorism.
Mr. Chokri El Fidha (Tunisia Plus Association) spoke about the Second Chance Program, which is to accompany the detainees and the most vulnerable individuals, who are likely to be recruited towards violent extremism. Second Chance initiative aims at implementing projects that can create a stabilizing factor and a break with the phenomenon of violent extremism. In addition, Mr. El Fidha introduced the e-leaders project, which is about selecting successful young people at the local level or at the level of the educational institution and enable them from a set of mechanisms to create platforms that aimed at the dissemination of anti-extremism rhetoric.
Mr. Mourad Al-Hajji (Youth and Skills Association): In his speech, he presented the activity of the Peace Camps, which will include 20 educational institutions spread across three governorates, aiming to create a platform for dialogue with young people in colleges and secondary schools on the issue of violent extremism. Through social and cultural mediation, these camps will broadcast films and program role-playing to create an in-depth discussion among students about the phenomenon of extremism.
Mr. Ahmed Adhoum (Tunisian Minister of Religious Affairs) stressed the importance of the MEDIATE project and CAFA network. He also discussed the issue of monitoring the religious discourse and the preachers whose number is 5400 at the national level, and the efforts exerted by civil society organizations in cooperation with the ministry to disseminate alternative discourse among imams, as the ministry by itself finds it difficult to focus on the issue by itself given the material and human challenges it faces. He also stressed some of the activities that fall within the objectives of the ministry and promised to accelerate the move towards signing an agreement with CAFA network, and said it as at an advanced stage…