Yemeni youth tackle terror with non-violent campaign
by Bassam Ghabar
12 March 2013
Sana’a - While counterterrorism efforts in Yemen generally fall within the domain of the Yemeni security forces, Yemeni youth have also joined in the challenge to uproot terrorism in a peaceful and effective manner. Since last December, a group of young Yemenis has been waging a campaign in schools against terrorism through an organisation called Youth Creativity. The campaign aims to deepen national allegiance and spread a culture of tolerance and coexistence throughout the country.
Terrorist groups in Yemen have expanded their operations during the past two years by taking advantage of political events and the absence of security since the youth revolution on 11 February 2011. The result has been widespread losses for the country, including the deaths of civilians and military personnel, as well as the takeover of areas in the governorates of Abyan and Al-Baida' in the south of the country.
In response to this situation, Youth Creativity has provided an opportunity for Yemenis, regardless of grouping or social class, to come together under a banner of peace and unity.
Through the organisation, Yemeni youth from different regions and political affiliations are now working together to protect their society from terrorism and establish a more secure country together. To do so, these youth participated in an awareness campaign to enhance the values of peace and coexistence among school children while simultaneously warning children against falling prey to terrorist groups. Aware of the need to protect this vulnerable age group in particular, the youth believe this is a solid way to confront the terrorist doctrine that has taken root in the country.
Schools are fertile ground for creating a generation that is aware of the peaceful principles found in Islam, like respect for all human life, the importance of accepting one another regardless of political or religious beliefs and the courage to stand up to those endangering their homeland. The campaign seeks to teach students about the true meaning of Islam by explaining through religious texts exactly how it promotes peace, instead of how terrorist groups want young people to see it – as supportive of violence and killing.
The campaign, in cooperation with the Yemeni Ministry of Education, which encourages and authorises Youth Creativity members to work in schools, includes a number of activities. First, Yemeni scholars and religious leaders speak with students during the daily morning assembly about the dangers of terrorist groups, giving examples of the negative effects on both the individual and the country.
In addition, the 120 members of the Youth Creativity national team, youth who were given special skills-training on counter terrorism by Yemeni trainers, circulate through schools and give classes for all levels. This team promotes further awareness by distributing pamphlets and screening videos about the dangers and destruction caused by terrorism.
The campaign furthermore chooses educators from each school, usually the physical education teacher, the social counsellor and the librarian. It then links these teachers with troubled students in the schools who might be more vulnerable to indoctrination by terrorist groups. Teachers then share messages with these youth that promote a culture of compassion and tolerance.
The talks are designed to provide tools to absorb the students' negative energy and transform it into positive activities. Through this individually focused aspect of Youth Creativity’s awareness campaign, at risk students might be better reached and enriched by a culture of tolerance which they can spread among other students in turn.
This set of activities is intended to cement the ideas of coexistence and tolerance, while simultaneously refuting terrorism and radicalism in the Yemeni school system.
Youth initiatives like Youth Creativity’s campaign showcase positive approaches to solve the nation’s issues. These initiatives further depict the extent of understanding and awareness many Yemeni youth have reached in terms of how they too can build a country free of violence. It is encouraging to see youth so keen to make Yemen peaceful and free of terrorism.
*Bassam Ghabar is a journalist from Yemen. This article was written for the Common Ground News Service (CGNews).