August 22, 2019
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Former militant's Sumatra boarding school combats radicalization

The al-Hidayah Islamic Boarding School in the north of the Indonesian island of Sumatra is one of its kind: founded by a former jihadist militant, it counts among its pupils 37 sons and daughters of convicted terrorists who were either killed in raids or are currently imprisoned.

The school, located in the town of Sei Mencirim, is a private initiative of Khairul Ghazali, who wanted to prevent the children from following in their fathers’ footsteps by providing an education and avoiding their radicalization.

Ghazali was arrested in 2010 in relation to a bank robbery in which a paramilitary soldier died, as well as the bombing of a police station that killed three officers in Hamparan Perak, also in north Sumatra.

Before his arrest, he spent several years indoctrinating new recruits. Ghazali has been linked to Islamist groups since the 1980s, when he met members of the Jemmah Islamiyaa terror organization, which has close ties to the al-Qaeda network.

While in jail, he penned a book about his experiences behind bars before opening the boarding school in 2015 after regaining his freedom.

The school has the support of Indonesia’s National Agency for Combating Terrorism (BNPT). The agency established a similar center for children of militants in Lamongan, East Java. The BNPT has launched various de-radicalization initiatives throughout the country focusing on at-risk youth.

A visual story by Dedi Sinuhaji.

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