#ExtremeLives returns for a second season
#ExtremeLives seeks to uncover the human impact of extremism through video story-telling. Speakers in our new season have so far included Youth Leader and Activist Thinzar Shunlei Yi, retired Brigadier General and former Elections Commissioner Sakhawat Hussian, Dr. Mohamed Nawab Osman, Assistant Professor at the Rajaratnam School of International Studies, and Mr. Zafar Sobhan, Editor-in-Chief for the Dhaka Tribune.
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Understanding extremism requires understanding the people it affects. #ExtremeLives is a series of live video broadcasts on Facebook from countries across the region, including Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Singapore, covering on-the-ground stories of violent extremism.
The Asia-Pacific region is estimated to have 1.7 billion active users on Facebook, and men between the ages of 18-34 constitute the largest single demographic of users across large swathes of the region.
The proliferation of digital technologies and platforms globally – and in Asia – offers a unique opportunity to engage directly with the region’s youth on issues such as violent extremism, on platforms that have a reach within their lives and circles at an unprecedented scale. Evidence suggests that radical groups such as the IS and Al-Qaeda have leveraged online spaces and networks to promote their violent worldviews and to recruit young people across the world.
UNDP’s leading role within the UN system in identifying development solutions to violent extremism, and its network of 24 country offices in the region, long experience with civil society engagements and strong standing with governments, offers the agency a unique opportunity to engage regional audiences in dialogues that counter violent extremist ideologies.
Follow the conversation on Facebook and Twitter with the hashtag #ExtremeLives.
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From first-hand accounts of the killing fields of ISIS-coccupied Raqqa to insiders from a network that trained militants across Asia, #ExtremeLives has featured the following speakers.
Thinzar Shunlei Yi’s father was a military man. She grew up before the election of 2015 that propelled Aung San Suu Kyi to power after decades of absolute military rule. Over the past two years, she has witnessed a brief surge of increased liberties, followed by the sharp rolling back of freedom of speech, the right to protest, and the marginalization and distrust of civil society. As a young activist, she is challenging hate speech and intolerance to build a more peaceful future.
Noor Huda Ismail’s life changed after discovering one of the 2002 Bali Bombers was an old school friend. For the past 15 years, and as the founder of the International Peacebuilding in Indonesia, Huda has been committed to understanding what draws ordinary people to extremism – and what can be done to stop this from happening. #ExtremeLives talked to Huda about his work with Indonesians returning from the battlefields of Syria and Iraq, what they experienced and why they left.
For many years, Nasir Abas was one of the most wanted Jihadists in Southeast Asia. As a senior commander in Jemaah Islamiyah, Nasir trained the 2002 Bali bombers in Afghanistan. Today, Nasir works to prevent others from following the path he once did. Nasir shared with #ExtremeLives why he joined an extremist group and why he left.
Dete Aliah meets with women whose lives have been completely transformed by violent extremism. Across Indonesia, she has talked with over 60 wives of violent extremists to understand extremism from their perspectives. For the past year, Dete has closely followed and interviewed Indonesian families deported from Turkey after attempting to reach Syria. After listening to their stories, Dete shares with #ExtremeLives a first-hand account of what lures mothers, children, grandparents, and ordinary people to join the Islamic State.
For years, Don Pathan has travelled to some of the world’s most dangerous places, from the guerilla strongholds inside Thailand’s Southern provinces, to the heart of Taliban-held territory in rural Afghanistan. His mission: to find out what pushes ordinary people to become armed fighters, extremists, and terrorists. By following and listening to the stories of armed fighters, Don’s work has shed much-needed light on Thailand’s forgotten southern insurgency.
Bangladesh faces a diverse array of extremist-related challenges; domestic threats, transnational threats, and accusations that is has become a safe haven for extremists. Zafar Sohhan is the editor of the Dhaka Tribune, an English-language daily launched in 2015. Retired Brigadier General Sakhawat Hussain is a security analyst, former election commissioner and a Brigadier General (retired) in the Bangladesh Army. Dr. Nawab Osman, Assistant Professor and coordinator of the Malaysia programme at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (RSIS).
Abdalaziz Alhamza watched the Islamic State take over his home town of Raqqa in Syria. He has been fighting them every day since. With his friends, Aziz founded Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently, a group of citizen journalists risking their lives to uncover the atrocities committed by the Islamic State in the city. The group was awarded the 2015 International Press Freedom Award. Aziz spoke to #ExtremeLives about his fight against extremism and how others can do the same.
Ahmad el Muhammady is a counter-terrorism expert based in Malaysia. As an Advisor with the Royal Malaysian Police rehabilitation programme, Ahmad has interviewed more than 80 suspected ‘terrorists’ - some as young as 14. He has inside knowledge of what motivates young Asians to join radical groups and how these groups operate.