In what may seem like an unlikely alliance, former violent extremists and victims of extreme attacks are coming together to fight back against radical ideologies.
The group called Against Violent Extremism was first conceived in 2011 at the Summit Against Violent Extremism in Dublin. It was funded by Google Ideas and also has support from the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD), the Gen Next Foundation and rehabstudio. Here’s the group’s mission:
Former violent extremists (‘formers’) and survivors of violent extremism are empowered to work together to push back extremist narratives and prevent the recruitment of ‘at risk’ youths.
AVE uses technology to connect, exchange, disseminate and influence all forms of violent extremism (from far right and far left to al-Qaeda-linked and inspired and gangs). It leverages the lessons, experiences and networks of individuals who have dealt first-hand with extremism. Through the website and YouTube channel, members can stay in touch, share ideas, collaborate, find investment and partners, and project their messages to wider audiences.
Watch Google’s informational video on the group:
Wired describes the group as a “social network” with the propensity to be “dubbed Facebook for Terrorists,” but it’s more than just a forum where experiences can be shared. Wired states the group hopes to provide resources for those stuck in terrorist and extreme organizations to learn how they can get out. It will be a support network and can even help “formers” find new living situations and jobs.
Head of a rehabilitation group for former Neo-Nazis — Exit Sweden — Robert Örell told Wired that it’s not just a change of heart or challenging long held beliefs that helps extremists turn away from violence. It’s a “a nonjudgmental attitude and giving them a practical route to new friends, a new job and a new life.”
As of right now, the site has made more than 400 connections and has nearly 50 “formers” and 18 survivors participating.