Can You Really “Deradicalize” a Terrorist? By Obi Anyadike – MIT Technology Review
… When I first met him, in 2015, he was an inmate in Nigeria’s Kuje Prison, and one of the most senior members of Boko Haram being held in custody. He was also one of 41 subjects in a new experiment being conducted by the government.
Faced with a difficult war against insurgents in the remote northeast, Nigeria had decided on a new strategy to tackle extremism: a mixture of amnesty, demobilization, and reprogramming to whittle away jihadist recruits. The idea was to undermine Boko Haram through bloodless attrition, not just by slugging it out on the battlefield.
The program was designed and run by Fatima Akilu, a soft-spoken psychologist who had trained in the UK and the US. She drew on prison-based schemes under way in Saudi Arabia, Singapore, and Australia, adapting them to Nigeria. The new approach involved changes across a range of policy areas: shifting the school curriculum to promote “critical thinking,” overhauling a sclerotic justice system, tinkering with the health services so that psycho-social care could be expanded.
“The solutions are as complex as the reasons for radicalism,” Akilu told me…