Thank you for helping to give 15 young people and alternative to extremism! This project is now fully funded.
Since it began, this project has provided free training, mentoring and support to young people learning to resist extremism, and instead build a just society free from violent conflict.
With your support, young people have been taught to understand the roots of extremism, the reason for its attraction, ways to resist it, and how to help others do the same.
Because of you, these young people now have the confidence and skills to build a more peaceful future for themselves, their families and their friends.
Thank you for making a real difference to their lives, and for helping to build peace – one person at a time.
If you would like to continue giving young people and alternative to extremism, see below for a link to a similar project in Kismayo, Somalia.
Ever been a situation that you wanted to fix, but weren’t sure how? When you live in a conflict affected area, finding solutions can seem even harder. Yet, this is the story of Bandar: a young student who overcame problems within his community through education and dialogue.
“My name is Badar and I live in a northwestern province of Pakistan.
I was born and raised in a very religious and conservative family.
Growing up I felt bored and, at times, suffocated. There were no activities for youth. When I was admitted to university in Peshawar, I felt very happy.
I could hang out with friends until late, listen to music and go to restaurants. I didn’t want to go back home to my village, even at the weekends.
At this time, one of my friends recommended some training to me run by Aware Girls [Peace Direct’s local partner in Pakistan]. I went I saw a young woman with short hair talking about peace and religion. I felt resentment and wanted to quit the training.
My friend persuaded me to stay for a few more sessions.
Gradually, I got involved in the discussions and spent the whole day at the session. I went the following days and kept thinking about the issues discussed, even after the session ended.
Slowly, I began questioning my beliefs about gender, religion and politics. I was transformed from an intolerant and slightly aggressive young man into a non-violent peace activist.
I felt more committed to my community and decided to play a role in the peace and progress of it. I joined several other forums and networks working for social change and peace.
One day my uncle rang and told me about a 15-year-old boy in our village who had joined a local militant organisation. I left for my village the very next day and went straight to the house of that boy.
He had been radicalised. He was preparing to carry out a suicide attack in Afghanistan.
When he came to say goodbye to his parents, they locked him in a room and informed the elders in our community, asking them for help. I had to do something.
The first day the boy refused to meet me. But the second day I was able to get him to listen.
I spoke with him for several hours. The skills and knowledge I had learned during Aware Girls’ training sessions helped me a lot.
I continued to meet the boy for several days. After two months, the boy had totally abandoned the idea of becoming a suicide bomber and wanted to live a happy, non-radical life.
He learned skills to repair cars and found a job in a workshop. He has also resumed his studies and is planning to sit secondary school exams soon.
My peace journey continues and now I work with vulnerable street children, striving to help them become peaceful, productive citizens.”
You can support other young people like Bandar to bring about peaceful change in their communities by continuing to support this project. A further small donation of just $10 can fund 1 young person’s travel to an intensive residential training course like the one attended by Bandar, while an additional generous donation of $102 can pay for all the materials required by 40 young people to successfully compete such a course. With your support, we can provide more opportunities to people like Bandar, and continue to help them to build peace in their communities. Thank you.
Have you ever been a situation you wanted to challenge, but did not know how? When you live in a violent, conflict affected area, the stakes are even higher. Yet here is the story of Sail, one young man who has changed minds and prevented extremism in his community.
Sail is 19. He is a land surveyor in Swabi, Pakistan. Sail noticed that many youths in his village went to religious schools. He knew they were exploited by the Taliban and even received specialist militant training. Sail wanted them to lead positive lives, but didn’t know how to approach their very conservative mind set. He didn’t have the skills, the knowledge or the support.
Then Sail found Aware Girls. He took their training course and started working with them. He learned how to reach out to the youth and prevent more lives being lost to violent extremism.
Sail began to talk to the youth using what he’d learned about peace, human rights and religious tolerance. At first, some were unwilling to listen:
“Some understood my message and others ignored. But over time I had more youth coming to join me in the peace talks. With a small group of 15 youth, I created an organisation, ‘We Can Bring Peace’.”
Sail began to work with Mufti, a progressive religious scholar, who educates boys from the extremist training camps and explains the Taliban’s misleading teachings. He also included messages of peace in his Friday sermons.
Sail taught the young boys that all humans are equal and that violence is never the solution.
Thanks to his brave efforts, several boys have returned to their families with changed minds and six have even joined Sail’s local peace group. We Can Bring Peace now has 50 youth members who mentor students and organise positive activities, such as cricket matches and coaching, to keep them engaged.
Sail has also used his new skills to establish constructive community initiatives to combat violence and extremism. Working with the police, Sail has launched a Gun Control Campaign. Many people have stopped keeping guns, and shots are no longer fired during public festivities. Sail also created a Peace and Human Rights Awareness Program, which has been taught at local high schools since September 2015.
“It has been five months since I attended Aware Girls’ training on peace and I have been able to bring a considerable change in my surroundings.”
Aware Girls are able to reach young people, showing them an alternative to extremism. Their training courses enable young people to spread the message of peace so young minds turn away from extremism.
You can support other young people like Sail to bring about peaceful change in their communities by continuing to support this project. A further small donation of just $10 can fund 1 young person’s travel to an intensive residential training course like the one attended by Sail, while an additional generous donation of $102 can pay for all the materials required by 40 young people to successfully compete such a course. With your support, we can provide more opportunities to people like Sail, and continue to help them to build peace in their communities. Thank you.
When the Taliban overtook her village and began brainwashing her friends and family with hate speech; Jan, a young Peshwari woman, felt compelled to stop the them. Later that year, she attended training with our local partner in North East Pakistan, Aware Girls, where she learned about how to effectively combat the Taliban’s Islamist agenda. She now lectures upon countering violent-extremism to children in her community. This is her story:
‘When [the] Taliban started taking over our area, I didn’t know what to do. I knew how to write, so I started writing against them. They used to collect funds for constructing mosques and started conducting three-day trainings [where] they would preach hatred against [the] army and other people. I was never very religious, so I was not attracted to them.’
‘Writing against [the] Taliban did not seem enough. I felt the need to somehow stop [them], so I, along with a few of my friends, started to educate youth about peace and conflict resolution. I advised them to keep away from such groups.’
‘In 2013, I came across Aware Girls, and [began to attend] their training [sessions]. The most beneficial part of their training for me was the clarity they gave on the Taliban and their agenda. I sent some of the youth I work with to their trainings as well. I [then] started giving lectures on peace, conflict resolution and women’s history in the trainings organized by Aware Girls. I would educate [attendees] about what Islam actually says; citing references from Quran and Hadith in order to show them how they were being miss led from religion. Then I would tell them about the importance of education, take them to Peshawar for exposure visits to show them how educated people in developed cities are living peaceful lives.’
‘Gradually, I started conducting sessions with the youth who were being trained by Taliban. One of my students, Imran, who is very dear to me, had started attending [Taliban training] when he was in the 4th grade. Fortunately, because he is so close to me, I was able to revert him and sent him back to regular school. Now he is in the 8th grade. He writes very good poetry and looks after my library, which I have opened for youth to expand their horizons on the world, peace and pluralism.’
‘Things have changed considerably since the operation started. I hope that all this militancy ends soon.’
By donating to this project, you are enabling women like Jan to develop their skillset, and ultimately contribute to the health, safety, and peacefulness of their communities. With your support, we can provide training to more women like Jan, and in doing so help more young people to find alternatives to violent extremism. Thank you.
Nabila – a young Peshawari woman – feels that “religious teaching is at odds with modern education” in Northern Pakistan.
This is because the Taliban holds great influence over her community, and argue ''that educating girls spoils the mind”. As such, Peshwari girls educated above primary level are few and far between, and many live in perpetual fear of their local Mullahs as “they could give you Fatwa.”
Despite the constant threat of violence and persecution however, Nabila has begun to attend training sessions with Aware Girls - a local organisation partnered with Peace Direct – who are teaching her and other young Pakistanis how to promote peace, tolerance, and women's rights in their communities.
“I am young and there are other young boys and girls who are trained. We speak for our rights and the right of other young girls. We challenge the teaching of the Mullahs, that way it may take many years, but we can change the attitude.”
Your support helps to create opportunities for young people like Nabila by developing their skills and contributing towards the health, safety, and peacefulness of Peshwari communities.
With your support, we can provide training to more young people like Nabila, and in doing so help them find alternatives to extremism and build peace within their communities.
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