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Education and empathy with victims to curb violent radicalisation

The forum 'Violent radicalisation in Spain' held at the Francisco de Vitoria University became a framework for reflection on the processes and consequences of violent extremism and terrorism
Education against radicalisation

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The tendencies towards polarised positions in Spanish society, as well as in the rest of the world, pose an increasing risk of violent radicalisation and the appearance of terrorism in our populations. For this reason, early detection of the signs and understanding the aspects that favour the development of these radicalisations have become key points in the prevention of violent extremism. Coordinated responses that put in place clear and timely strategies are key elements in the fight against radicalisation. In light of this reality, education in diversity, opportunity, respect and empathy are becoming increasingly relevant. 

"The process of radicalisation is very gradual; like one of those very slight slopes that you don't realise you have climbed until you reach the top," exemplified Beatriz de León Cobo, organiser of the conference 'Violent radicalisation in Spain. Presentation of conclusions', which was held on Tuesday at the Francisco de Vitoria University in Madrid.

Beatriz de Leon Cobo, organizadora de la jornada ‘Radicalización violenta en España. Presentación de conclusiones’ e investigadora del Centro de Seguridad Internacional de la Universidad Francisco de Vitoria
Beatriz de Leon Cobo, organiser of the conference 'Violent Radicalisation in Spain. Presentation of conclusions' and researcher at the International Security Centre of the Francisco de Vitoria University.

The event brought together leading figures in the fields of combating, preventing and studying the processes of radicalisation, who reflected on these issues and provided different perspectives on the history, consequences and implications of extremist violence. Throughout the three panels, leading professionals such as Manuel Marlasca, a journalist specialising in terrorism, Eva María Jiménez, ambassador of the Radicalization Awareness Network (RAN) for Spain, Josep García, researcher at the Euro-Arab Foundation for Higher Studies, and Ana Habiba Dahbi, coordinator of the AIDA association in Morocco, took part. 

The second panel featured presentations by several members of the State Security Forces and Corps, specialising in the fight against terrorism and radical movements. Among them were Javier Abadalejo, former advisor to the Ministry of the Interior to the EU, Marcial Piriz, chief commissioner of the National Police Corps, and Francisco José Vázquez, head of the Civil Guard's Terrorism Unit, as well as Ignacio Cosidó, director of the UFV's International Security Centre. 

Francisco José Vázquez Aznarez, jefe de la Unidad de Terrorismo del Servcio de Información de la Guardia Civil, (UCE2), en el evento ‘Radicalización violenta en España. Presentación de conclusiones'
Francisco José Vázquez Aznarez, head of the Terrorism Unit of the Information Service of the Guardia Civil, (UCE2), at the event 'Violent radicalisation in Spain. Presentation of conclusions'.

During the conference, the results of the work of the doctoral student, Beatriz de León, and her collaborator, Victoria de Miguel Yubero, were presented: 'Research dossier on the prevention and detection of violent radicalisation in Spain'. In addition, this research, funded by the Victims of Terrorism Foundation, has served as the basis for the development of the 'Manual for the prevention and detection of radicalisation'.

This guide contains "pedagogical guidelines to explain these issues to children in a clear language that prepares them for this reality, indications for detecting radicalisation, risk factors and prevention mechanisms and strategies", as Victoria de Miguel explained. 

Ana Isabel Díaz Delgado, responsable del Área Internacional de la Asociación Víctimas del Terrorismo
Ana Isabel Díaz Delgado, Head of the International Area of the Association Victims of Terrorism

Thus, in his opening speech, Javier de Cendra, dean of the Faculty of Law, Business and Government of the UFV, stressed the importance of education in the construction of a "culture of encounter" that respects difference and diversity. And, continuing in this direction, the first round table - made up of leading professionals - once again highlighted the relevance of knowledge and training and educational projects as elements of prevention. 

"The process of radicalisation is similar for all movements, whatever type they may be", said journalist Manuel Marlasca, who highlighted the fundamental role of the media and concluded that the fight against polarisation and violence "involves education. We have to teach people to inform themselves". Similarly, this first panel also addressed the problems of detection and work on the "factors that affect the radicalisation of young people", according to the coordinator of AIDA, Ana Habiba Dahbi.

The next panel, made up of members of the State Security Forces, focused its attention on the radicalisms that Spanish society has faced, from ETA, through the GRAPO, to the emergence of jihadism. The speakers, senior members of the Police and Civil Guard, shed light on issues such as Spain's role in Europol's counter-terrorism initiatives, the emergence of new radicalisation processes - hand in hand with the jihadist movement - and the security problems associated with violent and non-violent extremism. 

Javier de Cendra, decano de la Facultad Derecho, Empresa y Gobierno de la Universidad Francisco de Vitoria, en el evento ‘Radicalización violenta en España. Presentación de conclusiones’
Javier de Cendra, Dean of the Faculty of Law, Business and Government at the Francisco de Vitoria University, at the event 'Violent radicalisation in Spain. Presentation of conclusions'.

"Undoubtedly, the atmosphere of social polarisation that exists - not only in our country, but in the whole world - is expanding at breakneck speed, and can lead to violent radicalised activities. [And in such a connected world, everything that happens in other places affects us," said the chief commissioner of the National Police Corps, Marcial Piriz. "Who hasn't heard of issues such as hybrid threat or asymmetric conflict?" 

Finally, the third and last panel consisted of two speakers who were victims of violent radical movements in Spain. Thus, inevitably, one of the organisations that carried the most implicit weight in this last part of the colloquium was the violent Basque ethno-nationalist movement, ETA.  

Josep García, sociólogo y responsable de proyectos de investigación sobre la radicalización en la Fundación Euroárabe de Altos Estudios, en el evento ‘Radicalización violenta en España. Presentación de conclusiones’
Josep García, sociologist and head of research projects on radicalisation at the Euro-Arab Foundation for Higher Studies, at the event 'Violent radicalisation in Spain. Presentation of conclusions'.

The interventions of the representatives of the Fundación de Víctimas del Terrorismo and the Asociación de Víctimas del Terrorismo defended the importance of "reflecting the history of the victims, who show their courage through their testimonies". Thus, in keeping with the atmosphere of the entire conference, Monserrat Torija, Director General of Support for Victims of Terrorism, maintained that "victims must be given a face, a name and a surname. They must be given a voice in order to generate empathy in society". And, specifically, it is this empathy that Torija defines as "a very important factor in preventing radicalisation".