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11. March 2010

Anti-Terror Platform: “No Mother Wants Her Child to Kill”

Women’s organizations want to stand up against extremism and terrorism. Women are advocating for positive change in their respective local societies.

Vienna. “We know what it means to lose a child or a brother. And we still do not want to exact revenge,” says Robi Damelin from Israel. “Someone who is considered your enemy suddenly talks about feeling the same pain,” says Siham Ikhlayel from Palestine. 

Both women know what it is like to lose a family member to armed conflict. Robi Damelin’s son was shot by a Palestinian sniper; Siham Ikhlayel’s brother Yussuf was killed by an Israeli soldier at one of the many checkpoints in the Palestinian territories. Damelin and Ikhlayel belong to two opposing groups, but nonetheless decided—as simple as it may sound—to sit down at the same table to talk with one another. 

“We are trying to deal with pain that could just as easily turn us into terrorists,” says Ikhlayel. For the past 15 years, the women have tried to bring together Israelis and Palestinians and to penetrate the climate of terror through their organization, the “Parents Circle.”

They visit schools in Israel as well as in the Palestinian territories and tell their personal stories of pain. “Israelis and Palestinians do not know each other at all,” says Damelin. Each side experiences a similar daily reality, however. “We do not have to love each other, but we have to learn to respect one another.”

Early Warning System for Extremism

Their organization belongs to the Austrian-based anti-terror platform SAVE (Sisters Against Violent Extremism), which combats growing threats to security as well as terrorism. Women in the organization are advocating for positive change in their respective local societies. The women function as “a sort of early warning system, so that their children or husbands do not travel down the wrong path,” explains Edit Schlaffer, the Austrian founder of SAVE. During a conference in Vienna, the 16 representatives from different countries worked out their respective strategies. 

“No mother wants her child to become a murderer,” says Anne Carr. The Irishwoman has worked to overcome the differences between Catholics and Protestants for decades, and was part of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. “The hate cannot be passed on to the next generation,” says Carr. One has to show that there are alternatives to terrorism.

The work in Northern Ireland is already bearing fruit. In countries such as Yemen, the movement is still brand new. Women there are currently trying to form groups in order to challenge the growing influence of Islamists in families.

Please click here to read the German original in the Austrian newspaper "Die Presse".


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