"I was a hero... before I realized I was in the wrong game."
Moumen, 25-year-old young man, has now successfully reintegrated into society and has been able to reconcile with life after benefiting from rehabilitation programmes at the Roumieh prison while serving his sentence for terrorism-related offenses.
"I still remember the first time I came out to freedom in 2018. After five years in detention, although I was happy to see my family around me, I realized that I would encounter a new set of challenges to regain my place in society… face uncertainty over my future, find a job with the financial burden weighing heavily on me, and live in my community carrying the stigma associated with my incarceration. Since they were afraid of me as the label of “terrorist” was difficult to remove, it took me a lot of time, effort, and strength not to give up and to build trust as it was difficult to be accepted as a new person with positive intentions and reconnect with friends and family,” Moumen told UNODC.
"I was fortunate to benefit from rehabilitation programmes and to establish a strong bond with the professional team in prison which enabled me to break the cycle of violence and hatred, gain new technical skills, self-confidence, resilience, and most importantly, say "No" to temptations that might pull me back and make me lose everything I built away from violence.” Moumen added that “unfortunately, I felt being a hero joining the terrorist group, but now I have changed. I have faith… faith in life…”.
Today, Moumen opened a new chapter in his life. He was able to build a family, have a decent job as a carpenter, and strengthen his relationship with his loved ones, playing a positive role in his community by addressing the risk of involvement in criminal activities.
Moumen’s rehabilitation and reintegration came as part of the "Improved Prison Management and Rehabilitation and Reintegration of High-Risk Prisoners in Lebanon” project, which is implemented by the Lebanese Ministry of Justice in close collaboration with the Ministry of Interior and Municipalities, with the technical assistance of UNODC, and funded by Canada and the European Union. The project focuses on providing Lebanon with technical assistance to strengthen reintegration and prevention of recidivism.
In the Juvenile Wing of the Roumieh Prison, children and young adults with offences related to violent extremism account for an average of 10% (34 out of 350 per year) in detention since 2014. They all benefit from tailored rehabilitation programmes, with a particular focus on disengagement from violence and preparation to release aiming to prevent recidivism which is crucial to the reintegration process.
Although the road to reintegration is long and filled with obstacles, the story of Moumen, with exceptional results, gives hope not only to young people to disengage from violence but also to frontline actors to pursue their efforts to support the reintegration process and for development partners to continue funding social justice on the other, and lastly for society to believe that reintegration is possible for children and young adults with offenses related to violent extremism and terrorism.
This is the main message on 12 February to mark the International Day for the Prevention of Violent Extremism as and when Conducive to Terrorism.