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The Philippines is currently ranked number 9 on the Global Terrorism Index. The drivers of violent extremism are exacerbated by historic and contemporary grievances against Metro Manila, disunity among Moro communities in Mindanao and a lack of access to economic opportunities.
Violent extremist groups like ISIS-inspired groups and the Abu Sayyaf Group use these drivers to justify attacks against military and civilian targets. The government of the Philippines recognises the need for intervention and requested support from GCERF, whose governing board approved the Philippines as a partner country in 2018.
Supporting Socially Isolated Youth
Khuzaimah founded Thuma Ko Kapagingud Service to coordinate aid efforts during the height of the Marawi crisis. NGOs flooded the scene but couldn’t reach remote areas where people were fleeing to.
“We mapped out areas that were not included on the databases of the government – meaning areas that aren’t included as the priority of the government for relief distribution,” Khuzaimah said.
Now, she lives among 140 families in transitional housing for internally displaced people in Lanao del Norte and works to have their concerns heard by government. The focus of her work is on socially excluded youth. These are young people who have never had formal education and have not previously benefited from community projects.
Her organisation partners with governments and private institutions and acts as the local mobiliser for training on leadership, personal discovery and project proposal workshops.
“Youth are responsible for identifying the problems in their own communities and identifying the solutions that best fit,” she said. “A lot of government units in our province do not have data on how many socially excluded youth are in their communities because according to them, there’s no use in getting that data because no interventions are coming that are intended to help them.”
That corresponds directly with the problem of violent extremism in the province. She said it’s the dislocation from the rest of society, coupled with the lack of hope for the future that makes young people susceptible to the promises of violent extremists.
“If we are to look at the landscape of who is involved in terrorist activities, these are the youth that are coming from areas that do not feel like they are part of the larger society,” she said. “We go to communities identified as high-risk and give the leadership training because we want to show them that there are other options,” she said. “Not all people are apathetic towards them.”
It is important for her to rebuild trust between excluded groups and the government because the perception of being invisible allows violent extremists to capitalise on the idea that the government has forgotten them.
Pathways to Change
- Raise awareness on preventing and countering violent extremism among youth.
- Support families with skills to prevent violent extremism within the household.
- Train religious leaders and teachers to prevent and counter violent extremism.
- Facilitate detailed data collection on violent incidents.
- Promote traditional values as a protective factors against violent extremist ideologies.