Molenbeek: bet against terrorism
Almost three months after the attacks in Paris, we went in the neighborhood which set off the killer and we met those who struggle daily, yes, but against Islamic radicalism. Mothers of “foreign fighters” including
The neighborhood of Molenbeek Saint-Jean is a twenty-minute walk from the Grand Place in Brussels. It is a town-hall like so many, with its low houses and the market square, but marked by a long history of immigration and labor worker who still is perceived by observing the breweries and tobacco now disused canal house.
In recent months, Molenbeek has been defined by the international press “a den of jihadists” because it is here that, after the attacks in Paris on 13 November, focused investigations and police raids that have led to several arrests and the seizure of weapons and explosives. But the news, which has focused once again the spotlight on this area has always been difficult and marginalized, has not surprised those who worked for years in the area trying to address and combat the complex phenomenon of radicalism with the few resources available.
Molenbeek in fact is one of the municipalities with the highest percentage of Muslim population of Belgium: 40%, which in some areas reaches 80%, on nearly 100,000 inhabitants. A third of these are under 18 years, but very few prospects for the future, considering a youth unemployment rate of 50%. Catherine de Meyer is the director of SAMPA, a nonprofit that since Two thousand fight against social exclusion. “We get about a thousand people a year. We help with visas, residence permits, family reunification and offer psychological help for trauma due to the migration. We also organize courses in French. The budget we have is about 550,000 Euros per year and comes from the federal government, the region of Brussels and the European funds. But to meet all the needs of Molenbeek is not much. ”
Olivier Vanderhaegen is responsible from 2014 of a draft SAMPA for the prevention of radicalism: “We work with the families, we help them decipher the possible suspicious behavior of the children. It is very difficult to intervene in time: it was found how short the process that leads a fragile person, who feels left out and is going through a difficult time, to embrace radical Islam and leave for Syria: two to four weeks’ . Olivier is convinced that the true prevention consists in giving these children an education, a job, an identity, but it also recognizes that in recent times it is as if a taboo had been revealed: “The parents speak, denounce, asking for help.” In reply, however, there is only one psychologist. And the City, which since 2013 has set up a surveillance center is similar, they work two more. Insufficient resources when you consider that Belgium has the largest number of foreign fighters per capita (516 ones registered last October).
Just to fill a void that institutions so far have not been able to fill a group of mothers of boys started to tile the Isis gave birth to the association Les parents concernes: “We are more than forty families – explains Geraldine Henneghien, the manager – we organize listening groups and we urge the government: we want to change the law so that our children can go back when they manage to escape. Is it fair that they pay for what they did but not to be abandoned. ” Anis, the son of Geraldine, was 18 when in January 2014 he left for Syria: “My son has approached to Islam in a moment of frustration, had finished school but could not find work. He started attending the mosque, he came home with quote verses from the Koran, quarreled with his father, he said he wanted to go and help the women and children as well as denounced the police for terrorist association, hoping to block her departure. ” Unfortunately, no one stopped Anis airport on the day that I leave Brussels direct to Raqqa via Turkey and, after just over a year, died in a US attack.
“I believe that life is made of moments, meetings, unfortunately, just a moment because everything goes wrong.” To say it is Rajae Maouane, 25, assistant councilor to intercultural dialogue Sarah Turine. Rajae transmits the force of those who daily struggle against injustice: “I’ve had experienced only one in my life,” she recalls. “When I finished primary school and had to go to high school, my teacher called the best school in Brussels to be able to enroll because they had the highest marks. On the phone they were told there was no problem but when I arrived, accompanied by my father, I have refused. ” Rajae decided to work in the City for no more than you know what the problems are that a young man of Molenbeek has to face every day and what instruments to overcome them: “We need to invest in culture, schools and social cohesion.”
In the district there are about thirty associations working with children, including those Foyer, active for 45 years and directed by Loredana Marks, of Italian descent. “Foyer is recognized and subsidized by the Flemish and French speaking community and among its projects has” Foyer des Jeunes “which welcomes between 60 and 80 boys and children a day. We are working two full-time and one part-time, but it would be appropriate to have at least four to be able to respond more adequately to the needs, through sports and the arts. ” In fact, these are the only weapons that can offer an alternative to fight radicalism.
Khalid who is 17 years old and looks like a warrior with black jacket and motorcycle helmet under his arm he is a living example. He attended a vocational school and three days a week working as a toolmaker at the circus school where he trains as tightrope walker. “In the beginning was late, he was never shut up – remembers Vincent Wauters, the director – but I said: if you want to stay you have to respect the rules. Since then, every day I pull a little ‘how does a fishing line with a fish, not to make it go away and carry it further. We are proud of him. ” “I’d rather stay here and help me to do – he confirms – rather than in the street as many of my friends and do nothing.” Until some time ago Khalid wore a beard but he cut: “Every day I was stopped for a check.” Why prejudices affecting young Molenbeek are many, not only by law enforcement or by those who should give them a chance to work, but also by those who joined the digital propaganda of the Islamic State looking through the streets of Europe boys to be sent to the sacrifice.
“When they approached me too: Khalid Hey, what do you stay here? Come with us, we pay two thousand US dollars per month, there is good, there is the sun and help their Muslim brothers. ” And what did you do? “I told him to leave me alone and I called the police.”