Videos of IS defectors used to expose truth about terrorism

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ICSVEs Breaking the ISIS Brand Counter Narratives Project covered on Free Malaysia Today

Zam Yusa -December 8, 2017 9:30 AM

PETALING JAYA: Counter-terrorism material in several Southeast Asian languages, including Bahasa Malaysia, is being produced as part of a collaboration between a US think tank and the Southeast Asia Regional Centre for Counter-Terrorism (SEARCCT) of the Malaysian foreign affairs ministry.

The initiative is called the “Breaking the ISIS Brand — Counter Narratives Project”.

It will see a team from the Washington-based International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism (ICSVE) editing videos of defectors denouncing the group into short video clips to upload on the Internet to fight Islamic State’s (IS) online recruiting.

The video clips are being subtitled in the 21 languages IS conducts its recruitments in.

They have been focus-tested with success in Central and Southeast Asia, the Balkans, Western Europe, Jordan, Iraq and the United States.

“We are partners in this initiative,” ICSVE director Anne Speckhard told FMT.

“SEARCCT is helping to subtitle our videos into relevant Southeast Asian languages, such as Malay and Burmese.

“We agree that counter narratives, such as the ICSVE ones that use disillusioned insiders from IS, can help break the IS brand.”

According to Speckhard, the “Breaking the ISIS Brand” counter-narrative project videos are being used in multiple countries to fight extremist recruitment of youths and adults.

They are also used in targeted interventions with foreign fighter returnees and to monitor drivers of radicalisation.

“Our hope is to offer powerful tools to de-legitimise terrorist groups and their ideologies and diminish social support for them globally,” she said.

ICSVE’s website says the project has been lauded by the White House, the US Senate, the US State Department and many foreign governments.

ICSVE research fellows are also currently focus-testing the videos for prevention and intervention purposes globally, specifically with IS endorsers on Facebook, YouTube and in Telegram chatrooms.

One of the videos in the project, entitled “You Blow Yourself Up”, is based on an interview with a Syrian IS defector nicknamed Abu Abdullah.

In this video clip, Abu Abdullah speaks about how IS brainwashed youth into accepting suicide missions without really understanding who they were killing or why.

Disillusioned with the group, Abu Abdullah tells the viewer that IS is unjust and has wronged civilians.

In an article on ICSVE’s website, Speckhard says most experts agree that the most successful counter-messaging campaigns against IS are the ones that utilise the voices of insiders.

“These are the voices of IS victims and IS cadres themselves who have first-hand knowledge of the group’s brutality, corruption, religious manipulation and deception.”

She also mentions two examples of former violent extremists, who now are involved in countering violent extremism efforts.

“Mubin Shaikh (now a counter-terrorism subject matter expert) is a good example of someone who nearly joined al-Qaeda and imbibed deeply of the jihadist ideology before turning away and infiltrating a Canadian terrorist cell to help take it down,” she says.

“Usama Hasan, a former radical Salafi extremist and mujahidin in the Afghan jihad against the country’s communist government in the early 1990s, is another example of someone who has turned against Salafi-jihadi ideology and is dedicated to fighting violent extremism in the United Kingdom.”

All ICSVE’s countering-IS narrative videos, in various languages, can be accessed here: