Swimming pool, patios, gym: Jihadists go to rehab at ‘5-star’ Saudi centre
Riyadh: With its indoor swimming pool, sun-splashed patios and liveried workers, the Saudi advanced has the trimmings of a five-star resort, however it’s really a rehab centre — for violent jihadists.
Riyadh’s Mohammed bin Nayef Counselling and Care Centre, a soft midway home between jail and freedom, spotlights a controversial Saudi technique for tackling homegrown extremists.
Whereas the worldwide struggle towards terrorism is usually related to drone strikes and torture, the philosophy that underpins the centre’s strategy is that extremism requires not coercion however an ideological remedy.
Overseen by clerics and psychologists, it really works to stop convicts who’ve served their sentences from returning to jihad, by way of what it calls non secular counselling and ideological detoxing.
“Our focus is on correcting their ideas, their misconceptions, their deviation from Islam,” Yahya Abu Maghayed, a director on the centre, stated whereas giving AFP a golf cart tour of the sprawling, palm tree-lined advanced.
The convicts are housed in a sequence of low-slung buildings, outfitted with large-screen televisions and king- dimension beds, all framed by manicured lawns.
Many linked to teams comparable to Al Qaeda and the Taliban stroll round freely in flowing white robes, and have entry to a spacious health club, a banquet corridor and furnished flats reserved for visits from spouses.
“We make the ‘beneficiaries’ really feel they’re regular folks and nonetheless have an opportunity — an opportunity to return to society,” Abu Maghayed stated, insisting the centre kept away from calling them prisoners or inmates.
Saudi Arabia, lengthy accused of exporting its ultraconservative Wahhabist Sunni doctrine world wide, is itself a sufferer of home terror assaults.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has sought to roll again the affect of the ultra-conservative non secular institution, this week jump-started a 41-nation army coalition to fight Islamist extremism, vowing to wipe terrorism from the face of the Earth.
However the rehab facility, based in 2004, is likely one of the centrepieces of Saudi Arabia’s technique to expunge violent extremism at residence.
It claims to have handled greater than three,300 males convicted of terrorism-related crimes, together with repatriated Guantanamo Bay detainees.
The centre boasts of a “success charge of 86 per cent”, Abu Maghayed stated, measured by these males who didn’t return to jihad for not less than a decade after graduating from the centre.
Of the rest, he stated, most solely confirmed indicators of “deviant behaviour” and solely a minuscule quantity relapsed into violent jihad.
An American terrorism knowledgeable who has carefully studied the Saudi programme stated the recidivism charge was greater, declaring media studies of graduates from the centre who’ve confirmed up on battlefronts.
“Saudis are to be applauded for attempting one thing totally different — they had been one of many first to attempt a ‘speaking remedy’ for terrorists,” John Horgan, one other knowledgeable at Georgia State College, instructed AFP.
“(However) with out higher transparency about its individuals… It is inconceivable to know what worth added, if any, this programme brings in lowering the specter of re- engagement in terrorism.”
AFP was given an opportunity to interview “beneficiaries” in the event that they agreed, however when two bearded, gym-buffed males had been approached of their dwelling quarters, they declined to speak.
Critics say there’s a ethical hazard of treating jihadists, many with blood on their palms, with lavish amenities and monetary incentives.
However Saudi officers say the specter of sanction is at all times hanging over them.
Those that refuse to reform after a minimal keep of three months on the centre are returned to “the judicial course of”, Abu Maghayed stated.
However greater than coercion, the centre pushes for rising familial bonds, encouraging marriage and kids, a psychological tether meant to make it more durable to return to violent methods.
“You can not counter terrorism by power,” stated Ali al- Afnan, an academic psychology specialist on the centre.
“Solely concepts can struggle concepts.”
The centre makes use of artwork remedy as one among its instruments. Comparisons between portraits within the early days of incarceration and people at later phases are used as a metric to check inmates’ way of thinking.
Abu Maghayed confirmed AFP one early portray, which he stated depicted a depressing “Guantanamo mentality” — with splashes of orange, the color of jumpsuits on the notorious jail.
One other canvas painted weeks later confirmed daring brushstrokes and sparks of color, depicting hope.
As Afnan spoke to AFP, he fielded an abrupt phone name from a former “beneficiary” who as soon as travelled to Afghanistan to struggle alongside the Taliban.
Now married and with kids, he was looking for recommendation from Afnan over returning to school for a graduate programme.
“This man is our position mannequin,” Afnan stated after hanging up. “A shining instance of how folks deserve a second probability.”