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These Tunisian Women Are Combating Extremism In The Best Way Possible — By Being Mothers

June 23, 2017 11:53 am
Fethiya Charni holds a photograph and the passport of her son Tarak Slimi, who is suspected to have joined  Islamic State in Libya, at her house in El Kef, Tunisia April 14, 2016. Tunisia's 2011 uprising created fertile ground for jihadist recruiters. Hundreds of Islamist militants were freed from prison as part of an amnesty for those detained under Ben Ali. Ultra-conservative salafists began to flex their muscle, seizing control of mosques and clashing with secularists. As Tunisia's politics have stabilised, the government has reasserted control, taking back mosques, banning the local al Qaeda affiliate Ansar al Sharia, and forcing many militants to flee. At first the jihadists mostly headed to Syria. But now Libya is more popular with them - many Tunisians have become key figures in Islamic State there. In all, officials estimate that between 4,000-6,000 Tunisians have left to fight for Islamic State and other groups, among them university graduates and professionals recruited online. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra SEARCH "ZOHRA REMADA" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.    TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

Fethiya Charni holds a photograph and the passport of her son Tarak Slimi, who is suspected to have joined Islamic State in Libya.

In August and September of 2016, Ioana Moldovan traveled to Tunisia to better understand the push and pull factors driving a number of youth in the country to turn to radicalization. While there, she spoke with people from local nongovernmental organizations, state officials, longtime unemployed persons, people who almost got radicalized, former fighters and the families of those who joined different extremist groups. Some of their accounts are quoted in this piece, while others have been used for context. Their stories do not attempt to encompass the exact journeys of all former and current extremists and their families in Tunisia, nor are the groups they have joined the only radical forces at play in the country. But their experiences ― and the experiences of those close to them ― provide a glimpse into this complex situation.  

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