Identifying and Preventing Violent Extremism in Bangladesh
Although there is a growing body of countering violent extremism (CVE) and violent extremism (VE) research and literature, there is limited knowledge and understanding about the specific emerging trends and drivers of VE in Bangladesh.
To address this knowledge and information gap, we helped to implement Obirodh: Road to Tolerance from 2017 to 2020.
Together with our partner, Democracy International, we began by developing a learning agenda along with USAID to answer significant questions, such as the key factors driving violent extremism, who is most at risk of being recruited and why and where and how people are being recruited.
Through a variety of methods, our research team was able to narrow down the relevant VE drivers, as well as identify priority target groups. We also refined the understanding of VE narratives and recruitment processes and made recommendations for deradicalization and reintegration of convicted extremists.
Additionally, Obirodh collected lessons learned and best practices that contributed to fostering a PVE/VE community of practice in Bangladesh. We developed the first PVE toolkit for Bangladesh in English and Bangla, which was used to train more than 50 NGOs in a series of four capacity-building workshops. We also assisted with the formation of a P/CVE learning network of researchers and NGOs and convened several P/CVE learning network events to disseminate Obirodh research findings among members.
Our engagement with Bangladeshi researchers, civil society organizations, and government counterparts led to the development of adaptable activities and programs to identify, address and prevent violent extremism. Funded by small and medium-sized grants, activities varied widely, from Socialytics, an online analysis tool and dashboard that monitors for VE-related words and phrases on social media, to a counter-narrative campaign called Sobai Vinno Eksathe Ononno or “everyone is unique together”.
This campaign delivered positive messages on religious harmony, promoted pluralism, and encouraged youth power among youth ages 18 to 26. The tolerance messaging, discussions, talk shows, and films reached a televised audience of more than 14.5 million viewers, gained more than 100,000 Facebook followers, and accepted more than 1,400 youth submissions for film concepts, nine of which were produced and aired on television.
We also worked to deepen engagement and strengthen partnerships with key government entities, such as the Counterterrorism and Transnational Crimes Unit (CTTCU), Bangladesh’s lead counterterrorism agency. The CTTCU hosted P/CVE learning network representatives at its national P/CVE conference in December 2019, and CTTCU officials also facilitated a series of roundtable discussions aiming to sensitize key national-level stakeholders to act against violent extremism.
These and other capacity-building efforts will contribute to the ongoing work of preventing and countering violent extremism in Bangladesh.