The Rehabilitation Programme For Former Terrorists Criminology Essay

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This paper examines the rehabilitation programme for former terrorists that the Saudi Government is implementing as part of the counterterrorism strategy. It is a re-educational programme that addresses the ideological aspects of Islamic fundamentalist terrorism.

1.1: Background: religious terrorism in Saudi Arabia and PRAC program

Saudi Arabia is a confessional state, its political system and its society are shaped according to principles of the Shari'a law in its Wahhabist [2] version and the Saudi Government imposes a strict observance of the Islamic religious precepts. Islam is the only official religion and it is the central pillar of the sense of self and national identity. The central problem is that Islamic fundamentalist terrorism and Saudi political authority compete on the same ground of justification, they both propose different interpretation of the same religious message. Through the PRAC program, the government wants to overthrow the extremist violent ideology and replace it with a non violent and "moderate" interpretation. This campaign is part of the "war of ideas" (Ansary, The Saudi strategies to counter terrorism: the war of ideas) between the Saudi governmental institutions and fundamentalist religious terrorism. In the case of Saudi Arabia inslamic fundamentalist terrorism undermines the basic structure and values of the society. Saudi government's ultimate goal is to reaffirm its role as unique legitimate religious authority providing the sole officially accepted peaceful interpretation of Shari'a against the violent fundamentalism. (vedi boucek p 3 e 4)

The paper focus on the Islamic fundamentalist terrorism. As Turk has defined it, "terrorism is not given in the real world but is instead an interpretation of events and their presumed causes. And this interpretation are not unbiased attempts to depict truth but rather conscious efforts to manipulate perceptions to promote certains interests at the expense of others" (Turk 271, 272). Terrorist acts are rationally motivated and based on a violent interpretation of the religious precepts with political consequences. The recruitment of sympathizers and affiliates often appeal to the sense of frustration and social and cultural disadvantage.

The theretical assumption of the PRAC program is that "terrorists are made, not born" (Stahelski, Terrorists are made not born 2004) [3] and therefore it is possible to reverse the process that led those people to espouse deviant ideologies, to re-educate them and to prevent future affiliation to terroristic organisations. The PRAC program provides a mental scheme of though built upon the concept of "intellectual security". Several meanings can be attributed to it, however in the PRAC context, "Intellectual Security" can be defined as the attempt to convince terrorist sympathizers to abandon the extremist religious ideology and deviant violent ideas and promote a moderate peaceful interpretation of the religious message [4] (Arab News 17 May 2009, Saudi Gazzete…). The concept of Intellectual security is a political tool used by the government to provide a framework of thought which defines the officially recognized interpretation that has to be followed and in this way prevent the rise of deviant extremist ideologies.

1.2: Definiton of the problem: the effectiveness of the PRAC program as counterterrorist measure

How does Saudi Government use the PRAC program as counter measure against terrorism? can this approach resolve the ideological origin of terrorism?

Several subquestons derive from this main issue:

What are the reasons for terrorists behavior in the context of islamic funadmentalism?

What is the nature of the relationship between governmental institutions and terrorism?

How the program adresses the different components of terrorism? Who are the beneficiaries involved in the PRAC program? And has it been successful? And why?

"what are the effects of the PRAC program, as a conter terrorist measure

The official goal of the programme is "To cure" the deviant ideologies and the "misinterpretation" of the religious message and to prevent the resurrense of new deviant streams.

1.3: Methodological approach and Outline of the essay

The methodolohy used in this essay is based on media analysis and literature study. The majority of information to describe the programme are derived from newspaper articles and reports and documents of Governmental and Non Governemtnal Organizations. Academic sources and journal articles are used as well.

The paper is divided into three parts. The introduction provides background information and definition about the PRAC program, the social Saudi context, and the Islamic fundamenatalist terrorism. The research question is identified. In the second part the Islamic fundamentamist terrorism is analisezd more extenxsively. The third part is the most echapter the PRAC program is described. In the conclusion, the main point of the program will be summarised and the research question will be answered, the ASSUMED EFFECTS OF PRAC are discussed in the light of its capability to address the specific needs of former guantanamo detainees.


Islamic fundamentalist terrorism refers to act of violence against

The sense of membership is one of the main reason of affiliation to terrorists groups.

Terrorist find rational justification for their acts. In the case of Islamic fundamentalist terrorism the justification and motivation lay in the violent interpretation of religious message and the tragic outcome of violent acts is the desired payoff. Even if the terrorist acts might seem absurd and non rational, it is possible to find a rational explanation of these behaviors (Victoroff 14, 15).

According to the kind of justification and from the perspective is possible to define terrorism according the categories of pro/anti social behavior. It is possible to have a manichean division of ggod bad side. If we adopt the perspective of saudi government, terrorism is an antisocial behavior, since it tries to destroy and deligitimate the social institution of Saudi Arabia and to replace the "corrupted" religious interpretation by the Saudi Royal family with a "pure, heterodox" version of the original Islam. On more wide level if social is defined as humanity and the more general rule of civil cohexistance, terrorism is again antisocial since it is a violation of the rule of peaceful coehxistance and respect for the basic human rights and condition. From the perspective of terrorists, acting as they do is a prosocial form of commitment since they act to realize what in their view is a "better society" They try to destry the legitimate power, government and the solely official

Highly motivated, strong belief

Terrorists are commonly considered insane people. But according to


Assumption of rationality

Frustration aggression

Culture of terrorism, national cultural theory, public support to terrorism (victoroff 21)

As said above in Saudi Arabia, as usually in muslim society, the sense of identity is given by

Self identity and group values

Promise of rewads and charisma


The PRAC program is a "soft" measure part of the counterterrorism strategy inaugurated in 2004 by prince Mohammed bin Nayef bin Abdul Aziz al Saud, assistant Minister of Interion encharged of Security Affairs. The program is made by three components: the prevention part concern the spread of a culture of peace dialogue and non violence in the entire society, the reahbilitation and aftercare phases addresses to those individuals who already fell into the trap of terrorism and extremism and aims to recuperare them and facilitate their reintegration into civil society. The goal of the PRAC programme is twofold: on one hand it focuses on the rehabilitation of former terrorists and security prisoners who have already followed deviant extremist ideology; on the other hand it aims to prevent the formation of new dangerous interpretation of Islam by involving the religious authorities, educational institutions, media and the society as a whole.

The PRAC program is run and controlled mainly by the Ministry of Interior in collaboration with the Ministries of Education and Higher Education, of Islamic Affairs, Culture and Information, Social Affairs, and the provincial and regional governments. Moreover, academic institutions are also involved in the project on research level and in the education and training of officers. The involvement of such a wide range of institutions is indicative of the scale of this strategy and its aim to eradicate terrorism from all aspects of saudi society.

2.2: The Culture of Terrorim and the Prevention strategy

The prevention part, by its very nature, has a macro public dimension that involves the entire society. The Ministries of Education and High Education organise activities (e.g. lectures, conferences, distribution of pamphlets and other printed materials) at all levels of education from primary school to university to inform and to make students more aware of the risks of extremism and radical and violent interpretation of Islam, alternative moderate interpretations are promoted. The ministry approves scholastic and acamedic curricula and texbooks, and monitires teachers who are encouraged to include in the programs topic related to negative consequences of terrorism. Other activities (such as participating in sport events after school and summer camps) aim to deter the recruitment by extremist organizations during free time and summer breaks. The Ministry of Interior organises campains especially in universities to recruit young men in security services (Boucek 8, 9).

Terrorists often use media to increase their visibility (Turk 274, 275). However media can be used to show the negativity of terrorism and discred it. comunication campaingns play a key role in rising public consciousness on the damage of terrorism. In 2005 the governemnt lauched a huge comunication campaign against terrorism with the aim was demonize terrorism and extremism supporters and associate them to the evil. Television and radio programs, advertisements, publication of articles and photos on newspaper are also used to miscredit terrorism and dissuade young people to follow fanatic streams [5] . This campaign aims to increase the support of the civil population for governmental establishment. It wants to promote the idea that the Saudi government is making all possible efforts to protect the population. This campaign while discredits terrorism, increase the popularity of the state institutions.

This picture, even though is from Pakistani campaign against terrorism, is an example of how evocative images are associated to slogan against terrorism. The slogan affirms, "Terrorism is a public enemy and is an enemy of Islam and an enemy of Pakistan".

This is the logo of the Saudi National Solidarity Campaign Against Terrorism. This picture show the handshake between the military forces (represented by the harm in green military uniform) and the civil society (represented by the harm in sleeve of Saudi Thobe, the man traditional robe) united in fighting terrorism.

Another aspect of the prevention strategy concerns the role of Imams. Since they are a central point of reference for the entire society and they transmit the official religious thoughts they are necessarely involved in the control of ideology. In 2007 the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Islamic Affairs coordinated their efforts for implementing a special program of education and "enlightment" for clerics to promote tolerant and moderate religious messages (Ansary, The "Global War on Terror": What Has Been Learned?).

The final aim of the prevention is to create and promote a competing alternative to extremism and therefore to reduce and discourage the affilition to terrorist organizations. Moreover King Abdulla aziz has inauguated a reform process of education and judicial institutions and poverty reduction finilised to reinforce governemtal establishment.

2.3 Individual Chice to be Affiliated to Terrirism, the Rehabilitation and counseling program

The rehabilitation program addresses to security prisoners and is based on an intensive counseling process with the aim to eradicate the deviant beliefs and convince them that those beliefs are based on a corrupted misinterpretation. The counceling program inscludes dialogues and debates between the prisoners and religous experts and psychological and sociological assistance. In other word the aim is to demobilise the ideology that let those people simpathise to terrorist organization.

Teh reasoning on the base of the rehabilitation program is: since those people did not have a proper religious education they have a partial view of Islam and they can easely misunderstood it and fell in the trap of terrorist ideology. In order to correct this trend, the program provide them with the opportunity to fill the gap in their religious knowledge and thus to reach a correct interpretation of the islamic religious doctrine, by doing so they will realise that the terroristic ideological perspective is wrongful and misleading and they will abandon it.

2.3.1 Beneficiaries and actors involved

As said above security prisoners are the beneficiaries of this program. They are people who espoused extremist ideology and devoted their personal commitment in fighting "infidels". There are three distincted categories of detainees involved in the PRAC: domestic extremist sympathizers, those who have connections with Iraq terrorist network and Guantanamo returnees (Boucek 19). The programme is differenciated for each categories namely in the Aftercare phase.

According to the Advirosory Commitee, created whitin the Ministry of Interior and responsible for the couseling program, most of the security prisoners are young men in their twenties with low level of education coming from large family mostly from low/middle class. Most of them had contact with terrorist networks abroad and spent trainign period in Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan and Chechnya. 20% of them have prior criminal records mainly for crimes related to drug and only 5% were previously working in religious related professions (Imams or Mutawwa'in [6] ) (Boucek 14, 15). This survey stresses the lack of proper religous education and culture as the main cause of radicalization of the thougth of these individuals.

Till 2008, participants in the program were exclusively male. In July 2008 some women have been introduced in the program. They were not detained in prison and the counseling sessions were held in their house with the assistance of their relatives.

The returnees from Guantanamo constitute a special category. Their social and psychological conditions have peculiar characteristics. Because of the tortures, the indefinitive detention, the physical and mental brutal conditions of detention in Guantanamo those people suffer from acute Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. In their case the PRAC program is not merely a soft counterterrist strategy, it olso has the goal to cure the trauma. After be released from Guantanamo Bay, most of them suffered from disorientation, alluciantions, irritability, depression , delusion, anxiety, paranoia, sucidal temptation and self arming, aggressive impulses, profound social withdrawal, alienation, interpersonal conflict, perception of thereat, frustration and psychotic symptoms. As Robbins noticed "what was most worrying was the way in which their view of the world had been changed by their experiences. Whether this change is permanent is yet to be seen" (Robbins 64). This is relevant in cosideration of the fact that "torture is often deliberate in targetin a person's identity… destroying the fabric of one's internal and external world, an attack to one's values and beliefs, often experienced as annihiliating" (Patel 100). In fact, for Saudi detainees, the continuing attack to the religious and cultural dimensions of their identity was partculraly relevant. During detention in Guantamo they have been forced to violate religious rules (e.g. before prayer time a red liquid was spilled on them, they were said them that it was mestraul blod and they were not allow to wash before the begginning of the prayer; during interrogationthey were sexually humiliated by female guards).

Families of the detainees are also involved in the program. Given the key role of the family as institution in Saudi society, the participation of families in the PRAC facilitates the development of a sense of responsibility and honor in the detainees who feel compel to fulfill their family obbligation. Families are assisted by the government which provides them economic support (a salary in sostitution of the one of the detainee) and takes care of children education and health care. The positive engagement of the families aims to avoid further anger and adversity against governmental institutions. Moreover, the government wants to demonstrate that it cares about the well being of the subjects, on the contrary of terrorist groups that instrumentally exploit the weakness of the individuals. This is another demagogical argument used by the governemtn in its competion against terrorist organization within the framework of the "war of ideas". [7] 

2.3.2 Counseling program

The counselign program is managed by the Advisory Commitee and is haeaded by Prince Muhammad bin Nayef. The Commitee is constituted by four Subcommitees (rligious, psychological and sociological, security, media subcommitees) each of them encharges of speficic tasks (Boucek 11, 12).

The counseling process starts while the detainee is still in prison. In the first phase the prisoners meet with Religious subcommitee's conselours on indivual base. Tose conselours are all charismatic religious leaders In this first approach the communication style plays an importatnt role. The counselour should speak to the detainee in a friendly and fraternal way, he must be able to engage successfully in a dialogue with the detainee and, makes the prisoner feel that he wants to help and support him (Boucek 12). In this phase the counselor encourages the detainees to talk about his experience, his beliefs and his personal history and the reason why he was arrested. At this early stage the goal is to establish a positive relationship between the prisoner and the counseler.

In the subsequent phase, the discussion focuses on the justification of the actions and beliefs of the prisoner. The Committee officer opens the debate and challenges the views of the prisoner in the attempt to demonstrate that the extremist religious beliefs are fallacious and sinful. The goal is to demolish the conceptual apparatus the extremist ideology is built on by providing evidences of its falsity and achieve a condition of "ideological tabula rasa". Once the extremist ideology is eliminated the void is filled with the official version of Islam approved by the state. The prisoner is educated to the authentic autorised interpretation.

The last phase of the counseling process takes place in Care Rehabilitation Center where detainees spend a transition period before being released and reintegrated into society. Here they attend a course of six weeks in groups withb other detainees that covers more relevant religious topics and stress on some key concepts such as: religious authority and leadership, the importance of the legitimate religious sources and official jurisprudence. Some sessions are dedicated to a psychological process to increase their self-confidence. At the end of the course they have to held an exam. In case they fail it they have to retake the course (Boucek 17).

During the entire counseling process detainees' behavior and psychological condion are monitored and their progresses are evaluated by members of the psychological and sociological subcommitee. This evalutation will be taken into consideration by security subcommitee in making the release reccomandation.

2.4 Aftercare phase

After the detainee has passed the exam the Aftercare phase starts. It consists in several activities to reintegrate and get the detainee used to the life in civil society. The Aftercare programme is divided into two parts: the first one in the Care Rehabilitation Center, the second part stats after the release and it has the goal to provide social support.

The Aftercare phase begins in the Care Rehabilitation Center, located in a resort close to Riyadh. Sheik Ahmed Hamid Jelan directs the center [8] . The life style is very different from prisons. Persons follow a process from being detainees to being free men again. At this stage they are not prisoners anymore, rather they are considered in a status of "protective custody" (Boucek 19). Guards do not wear uniforms and the environment is generally informal. As mentioned above, detainees are divided into three groups and they follow differentiate programs. People of the same groups live together but they cannot interact with detainees of other groups. They all play sports and they can participate in other group's activities and art therapy. They can freely communicate with their families, and they can have temporary permission to visit them. During this phase, the former Guantanamo detainees take part in psychological therapy sessions. Their program is tailored to alleviate and cure the effect of the past traumatic experiences and on gradually reintroduce them to the everyday life in civil society.

After the release, the social assistance phase starts. The governement provides a monthly salary, an accomodation and a car and assist the former detainees in finding a job. Those benefits are extended to the family of the detainees. Educational programs are organized especially for them in order to improve their skills and qualification and help them in obtaining a better employment. The Advisory Committee keeps monitoring the life of the detainees once they have been released. it gives them instructions about rules they have to follow (e.g. people they are allowed or not to get in contact with). Former detainees must meet periodically with members of the Security Subcommitee and they mantain contacts with the members of the Religious Subcommitee with whom they have established a friendly personal relationship. The engagement of the detainees' families in this phase is crucial to reintroduce the former detainees in society.


The PRAG program has been considered a successful strategy against terrorism and many countries have emulate the saudi strategy in fighting terrorism and namely in addressing the problem of returnees from guantanamo. The Saudi ministry of Interior states that the has betweeen 80 and 90% rate of success (Boucek 21). From 2003 to autumn 2008, 2000 detainees out of a total of 3000 paticipants have successfully completed the programme and have been released, only a small number have been rearresterd (around 35 people) (Boucek 21).

However despite the general

Il programma ha successo in arabia saudita perche non esiste una cultura del dialogo e della discussione. I pensiero critico non è incentivato, al contrario è bandito. La discussione viene intesa solo come strumento per demolire una determinato posizione ideologica e per questo la sdiscussione è utilizzata soprattutto nella fase in cui si voile raggiumìngere la codnizione di tabula rasa ideologica.

Programma non é specifico per curare ptsd ma per "curare una malattia ideologica". "Saudi solution to saudi problem"ƒ  psicologia si mischia con la religione (inserire qui a proposito della

The prac program and the general idea of intellectual security è una lama a doppio taglio: on one hand it can be successful in peventing and annullare the terrorist extremist ideology, but it can also annullare any other dissident critical voice, in other words can be used by the government as a tool of social control to limitated the already restricted frredoms of though and speech.

However the programme has also an indirect effect: the former detainees accused to have been or to have collaborated with the terrorist organizations are traumatized by the detention period in Guantanamo. how the programme is able to address the problems derived from the

General sense of benevolence, competition, emerge as the best option compare to terrorism and extremism.,29307,1671787,00.html

While the security domestic detainees and the iraqi grouphave pretty similar activities.

for Those people in Guantanamo have lost any sense of rationality.

Systematic attack of the psyche lost sense of coherence and who they are. Lost sense of rationality no rational thought nor behaviors.

aim to target and destroy the religious cultural background of the muslim detainees. Here lays the meaning of torture vilating the most sacred values a nd the core of gendered religious cultural identity rule tabos and intimacy. Aim to render the detainees powerless humiliated and passive and submissive which cause shame guilt isolation self imposed silence withdrawal fear of being further humiliate and ostracized by family and society (how to recover? How does prac address these problems?)

On individual level, as Abdullah Ansary has pointed out, the general goals of the program are:

"to encourage security prisoners to renounce their radical ideology by providing them with psychological and sociological counseling … The most prominent and positive effects of the program for security prisoners are helping them correct their flawed understanding of shari'ah; responding their dubious thoughts; reminding them of the advantage of repentance and recanting errors; helping them realizing the importance of unity among the community and the danger of dissent… Release is granted to those who responded effectively to the program, realized their previous errors , denounced their previous radical ideolopgy, who are no longer considered security threats, and are proven to have the religious, spiritual, ethical means to protect themselves from backsliding into deviant ideology."

(Ansary, The "Global War on Terror")

can these goals be reached in the case of former detainees in gunatanamo?


The programme is run by psychogists equipes and with the support of the families of the detqainees.

In the Saudi context where the mental hillness is often denaided and stigmatised [9] and the thought is strictly controlled by the governmental regime .

, the PRAC programme has also another function: it can be seen as the only form of psychological service and support that those people can benefit from.

In the specific case of these detainees the PRAC program should revise its goals and adapt to their psychological needs and necessity? can be seen as a counter mesure against terrorism but it has also an indirect goal: to cure the trauma.