France has been a prominent target of Islamist terrorism both within and outside its borders for decades, and the beheading of teacher Samuel Paty near Paris in October 2020 is only one of the latest examples. Traditionally focusing on security measures to counter this threat, France has only started to establish prevention programs since 2013. Initial efforts faced criticism from a range of stakeholders and, as a result, the latest program has operated with much discretion.
Dr. Marc Hecker’s new study “Once a Jihadist, Always a Jihadist? A Deradicalization Program Seen from the Inside” provides the first comprehensive insights into the program PAIRS, which has been running since 2018. After an extensive field survey of staff, participants, and partners of PAIRS, the study not only finds that none of the terrorist offenders that have participated have reoffended, but also offers a nuanced assessment of the program’s disengagement and deradicalization efforts.
At this joint webinar by the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP), the French Institute of International Relations (IFRI), and the Counter Extremism Project (CEP), we discussed the study’s results and implications for French and German prevention efforts.
The event was held in English via Zoom on Monday, March 29, 2021.
Dr. Hans-Jakob Schindler, senior director, CEP
Opening remarks & moderation
Dr. Marc Hecker, director of research and communications, IFRI, editor-in-chief of Politique étrangère, and a research fellow at the Security Studies Center
An assessment of the French disengagement program
Sofia Koller, research fellow, DGAP and project leader of the International Forum for Expert Exchange on Countering Islamist Extremism (InFoEx)
Comparing deradicalization and disengagement in France and Germany
Dr. Robert Pelzer, senior researcher, Centre for Technology and Society (CTS), Technical University of Berlin and co-head of the department Security - Risk - Criminology
Key aspects of rehabilitation and reintegration of released Islamist extremists in Germany and commentary on the IFRI report.
Study by Dr. Hecker: https://www.ifri.org/sites/default/files/atoms/files/hecker_once_a_djihadist_always_a_djihadist_2021.pdf
Study by Dr. Pelzer: https://www.counterextremism.com/sites/default/files/CEP%20Report_Rehabilitation%20and%20Reintegration_Aug%202020.pdf
Relevant DGAP publications: https://dgap.org/en/research/programs/security-defense-and-armaments-program/counter-terrorism-and-prevention-violent