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BEIRUT, LEBANON, October 5, 2016: Within the confines of Lebanon’s Roumieh prison they gathered together as men recounting lives led before they became seen as terrorists.
Inmates whose affiliations spanned across Islamic State (IS) and a gamut of other Islamist groups were in discussion and, for once, religion and politics were not on the agenda.
Instead, led by two pioneering social workers, the talk was to be of their fears, their hopes, their regrets.
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“The moment you refer to religion or politics it becomes an endless debate,” explained Nancy Yamout, who along with her sister Maya has been overseeing sessions that also include art therapy.
“Religion is part of it, of course, but we’re not sheikhs, we’re social workers. We want to look at how they have reached this point socially and psychologically.”
For five years they have worked within the prison as they search for a new way to respond to radicalism, a search that is now taking them from the Islamists of Roumieh prison into neighbourhoods of the dispossessed.
Beyond the sectarian
A country deeply divided along sectarian lines, Lebanon’s instability has increased with the Syrian war.
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Struggling with an influx of Syrian refugees, the country also finds itself under threat of bombing – the last deadly blast took place this June in the northern border town of al-Qaa and state security services claim to have foiled numerous other IS attacks.
Meanwhile some youngsters within Lebanon’s own borders are being lured by the likes of IS into the conflict.
Some of the main drivers behind this are well established.
Raphaël Lefevre, a fellow at the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut, told VOA that recruits were “young Sunnis who feel strongly about supporting the Syrian revolution.”
Referring to the role of the powerful Iran-backed Lebanese Shia group which intervened to support Syrian Prime Minister Bashar al-Assad, he explained they “also feel frustrated by Hezbollah’s intervention in the ongoing conflict there and domination in Lebanon.”
The same year the war began, 2011, the Yamout sisters entered Roumieh prison for the first time.
They had both lost friends to radicalization, and persuaded the authorities to let them in as they sought to understand what it was that drove people into the arms of islamist militants.
But, as social workers, they wanted to look beyond the religious and political context of their subjects.
Nancy and Maya Yamout have slowly built trust among inmates in Roumieh’s Block B, exclusively home to the prison’s 680 Islamist militants, as they go about conducting interviews rather than the more usual interrogations.
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“We don’t ask them why they are accused of terrorism,” explained Nancy.
“We ask them how they are doing, what are their happy memories, what kind of food do you like?”
The latest art sessions were created as a form of therapy, though the sisters had limited material at their disposal — the prison would not allow chalk because it could potentially be smeared by inmates across the prison’s CCTV camera lenses.
Such workshops act as a gentle entry into discussions exploring the circumstance that created men seen as monsters by much of the outside world.
The Yamout’s findings led them to explore the role of family, and the support mechanisms available.
“If they’re between 15 and 20, they are developing their ideology, and if the parents are not creating a sense of self worth, or even something like the Scouts or Red Cross is, others will,” explained Nancy.
“It’s about a sense of belonging, of being wanted,” added her sister Maya.
And now, armed with their findings, they have moved beyond Roumieh in an effort to stop the cycle before it destroys more lives.
Having come to Lebanon from Manbij, the Syrian town controlled by Islamic State until August, Amal* has left one nightmare to be confronted with another.
Living in a poverty-blighted neighborhood in west Beirut, she fears for the safety of her children in a place she says is rife with crime.
“Maybe children here will reach drug dealers, or extremists – I don’t know,” she told VOA.
The Yamouts were pointed in the direction of the neighborhood by their contacts within Roumieh.
Here, claim the sisters, is a toxic mixture that contributes to radicalization – poverty, but more importantly broken social structures and familial relations.
Many here also lack Lebanese citizenship, making them vulnerable, according to the sisters, to those offering a new sense of identity and purpose.
In response, the Yamouts and their NGO Rescue Me have set up workshops for youngsters, offering them therapeutic activities like mosaic-making and job training, and are also setting up an office in the neighborhood to offer more permanent support.
Oil on fire
“When you support these kids, and give them enough, their self esteem rises and they gain the tools to work,” said Maya.
The sisters are tireless in their work, but the challenge they face is daunting, while their funding remains threadbare.
Advocating for more focus on prevention of radicalism at its roots, with supporting families in vulnerable communities crucial, they argue that more effort needs to be made helping former prisoners leaving Roumieh’s Block B into Lebanese society.
Otherwise, they warn, no matter how many arrests are made, or how many end up in Block B, the cycle of violence and radicalization could continue.
“The message [of Islamist militants] can spread,” warned Nancy. “It’s like oil on fire.”
*Amal’s name has been changed to protect her identity. (VOA)
By Monika Manchanda
Eating fruits is one of the most satisfying ways to tackle sweet-tooth cravings while meeting your nutritional needs. Despite many studies and research on fruit consumption in diabetes, there are a lot of speculations on the right kind of fruit consumption and its relation to blood sugar levels.
Eating seasonal and locally available fruit has many health benefits ranging from reducing sugar and inflammation levels to fighting high blood pressure -- thanks to their abundant vitamins and mineral presence! They are a powerhouse of antioxidants like vitamins A, B, C, E, and minerals like iron, calcium, magnesium, and fiber.
The fruits listed below are not just diabetic-friendly but are loaded with fiber and water content which can slow down the sugar spikes and sugar absorption rate. Apples are not just nutritious and filling; According to a study, they are significantly associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes if consumed in moderation. Turns out there is a truth in the old saying, "An apple a day keeps the doctor away", after all!
Apples are not just nutritious and filling; According to a study, they are significantly associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes if consumed in moderation. | Photo by Pierpaolo Riondato on Unsplash
Avocados are a great source of healthy fats and more than 20 vitamins and minerals. They are high in fibers as well, and have been linked with lowering the risk of diabetes. Berries: Adding berries is one of the best ways to add a variety to your diabetes-friendly diet. You can choose from blackberries, blueberries, or strawberries because all of them are power-packed with antioxidants, vitamins, and fibers. Papaya is rich in natural oxidants, which makes it a perfect pick for people with diabetes. It reduces the chances of future cell damage.
Star fruit: This sweet and sour fruit is rich in dietary fiber and vitamin C. It also positively impacts anti-inflammatory processes and can help repair cell damage, and it has minimal fruit sugars as well. Kiwi fruit is an excellent source of Vitamin E, K, and potassium, and they are low in fruit sugars as well, which makes it a perfect diabetic-friendly fruit.
Avocados are a great source of healthy fats and more than 20 vitamins and minerals. | Photo by Kristine Wook on Unsplash
Melons (Musk melon and watermelon): Powerful hydrating fruits like cantaloupe and melons are recommended for people with diabetes, and people with the risk of developing diabetes. Eat-in moderation for multiple nutritional benefits like fiber, potassium, magnesium, vitamin B, and C. Dragon fruit is full of dietary fibers, vital vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Pear are nutrient-rich, and they are known to fight inflammation and improve digestion.? Studies also suggest that consuming pears along with a healthy diet reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes. Orange: This citrus fruit is full of fiber that helps slow down sugar absorption into the bloodstream, and its vitamin C component helps improve immunity levels.
Add fruit to your salads to enjoy their goodness with a sprinkle of cinnamon, it tastes better and reduces sugar spikes . | Photo by Jo Sonn on Unsplash
Add fruit to your salads to enjoy their goodness with a sprinkle of cinnamon, it tastes better and reduces sugar spikes . Add nuts like walnuts and almonds to complement your fruit snack. you can also add flaxseeds to balance the glycemic load in the body. (IANS/ MBI)
Keywords: Diabetics, Apples, Star fruit, Pear, Melons, Kiwi fruit
By Nimerta C Sharan
Your monthly round up of the latest lifestyle launches, from luxury indulgences to artisanal creations, here's what you can look forward to :
Exciting news for all handbag lovers, luxury fashion house Louis Vuitton recently launched their limited edition handbags 'Artycapucines - Chapter 3'. Six internationally -- acclaimed artists have transformed the black canvas of the timeless Capucines bag into beautiful art pieces. Each bag will be available in a limited edition of 200 and will be released worldwide at the end of October 2021.
Exciting news for all handbag lovers, luxury fashion house Louis Vuitton recently launched their limited edition handbags. | Photo by Erik Mclean on Unsplash
Add To Cart
Looking for a quick festive fashion fix for you and your loved ones? E-commerce giant AJIO has announced it's hottest fashion sale starting September 30, 2021. The shopping platform has roped in stylista Sonam Kapoor as the face of the sale that will offer more than 2500 brands at discounted prices.
E-commerce giant AJIO has announced it's hottest fashion sale starting September 30, 2021. | Photo by Mitchell Luo on Unsplash
The country's leading design house, Good Earth, in collaboration with textile designer Madeline Weinrib will present its collection of 'butah' motif dinnerware and home textiles at the Metropolitan Museum of Arts, New York. The 'Heirloom Project' that honours diverse Islamic design techniques will display curated products from across the globe.
The 'Heirloom Project' that honours diverse Islamic design techniques will display curated products from across the globe. | Photo by Jean Vella on Unsplash
Sweet dreams are made of this! Iconic French patisserie Laduree has opened its first Indian outpost at Delhi's upscale Khan Market. Spread over three floors, the bakery currently has twelve macaron flavours, their signature pastries and tea cakes and other brunch and high-tea items on the menu. Bon appetit.
Iconic French patisserie Laduree has opened its first Indian outpost at Delhi's upscale Khan Market. | Pixabay
Bright And Beautiful
Raw Mango's latest festive edit 'Moomal' goes live on their website on September 26, 2021. Inspired by the richness and diversity of Rajasthan, the collection consists of organza and silk saris and shararas, gota lehengas and kurtas and embroidered odhnis. The colours and silhouettes are just right for the upcoming festive season. (IANS/ MBI)
Raw Mango's latest festive edit 'Moomal' goes live on their website on September 26, 2021. | Photo by Souravi Sinha on Unsplash
Keywords: Lifestle, AJIO, sale, Deepika PAdukone, saris, Motifs, artisan, art
Actress Kangana Ranaut has talked about how her weight adjustments for her latest 'Thalaivii' that "messed up many things" in her body and left her with "permanent stretch marks". For her role in the film, based on the life of late Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and former actress J. Jayalalithaa, Kangana had to gain 20kg and undergo major physical transformation several times.
She took to Instagram to share her experience, detailing that doing all that over the six months period left her with "permanent stretch marks". "Gaining 20 kgs in 6 months and loosing it all within 6 months that too in my thirties messed up many things in my bodya I also have permanent stretch marks as well but art comes to life with a price and more often than not price is the artist him/herself," she wrote.
"Thalaivii" showcases the varied aspects of Jayalalithaa's life, tracing her journey as an actress at a young age to becoming the face of Tamil cinema, as well as the rise of the revolutionary leader who changed the course of the state's politics. Talking about her upcoming works, Kangana currently has 'Dhaakad'.
She is also shooting for her next 'Tejas', where she plays a fighter pilot. The Indian Air Force was the first of the country's defence forces to induct women into combat roles in 2016. The film takes inspiration from the landmark event. 'Tejas' is directed by debutant Sarvesh Mewara. The film will be RSVP's second film which pays a tribute to the Indian military after the immensely successful film "Uri: The Surgical Strike" which was released in January 2019. (IANS/ MBI)
Keywords: Kangana Ranaut, Thalaivii, bollywood, stretc marks, actress, tamil cinema