Philippine Daily Inquirer - - ENTERTAINMENT - Nikka G. Valen­zuela

In 2012, Min­danao State Univer­sity Marawi City pro­fes­sor Tir­mizy Ab­dul­lah was so frus­trated with the never-end­ing peace talks he al­most joined a rad­i­cal­ized group.

“I think one fac­tor that is com­mon in all ar­eas of Min­danao that make ( peo­ple) vul­ner­a­ble to re­cruit­ment is the con­di­tion that we have—the his­tor­i­cal in­jus­tices that hap­pened, the Bangsamoro peo­ple who are mi­nori­tized for a long span of time and the sit­u­a­tion of the peace process (that) started way back in 1975,” Ab­dul­lah said.

He was speak­ing at the panel dis­cus­sion about “Re­gional Trends, Un­der­stand­ing the Con­text” dur­ing the Cre­ators for Change Re­gional Sum­mit at the YouTube pop-up space in Chang Chui, Bangkok.

Ab­dul­lah went as far as trans­lat­ing the rad­i­cal group’s ma­te­ri­als into lo­cal di­alect. The group’s sto­ries had some strong points, he thought, but there was a side of him that wasn’t com­pletely sold on the ide­ol­ogy.

“If it weren’t for the safe spa­ces that peo­ple pro­vided me, friends who are into peace ad­vo­cacy, most prob­a­bly I am not with you here. Most prob­a­bly I was one of those peo­ple killed dur­ing the bat­tle of Marawi,” he said.

The Marawi refugee said that the young peo­ple from Min­danao have be­come vul­ner­a­ble to re­cruit­ment be­cause of the same rea­sons, but also be­cause rad­i­cal groups have be­come more ag­gres­sive on so­cial me­dia in terms of re­cruit­ing.

De­spite the poor in­ter­net con­nec­tion in Marawi, Ab­dul­lah said peo­ple would go to nearby cities with bet­ter con­nec­tion, down­load re­cruit­ment videos and pass it on through flash drives.

“In 2014 to 2015, videos of hate speak­ers from other parts of the world were very preva­lent in my city,”

he added. “In our ex­pe­ri­ence in the Philip­pines, the use of so­cial me­dia for re­cruit­ment, for rad­i­cal­iza­tion, was a process, and the end of this process re­sulted in a (vi­o­lent) iden­tity.”

Ab­dul­lah, who is on the grass­roots level of peace talks in his city, said the aim is not just to counter the nar­ra­tive of ex­trem­ists, but to give Min­danao a new iden­tity free of con­flict.

“We hope that at the end (of this pro­gram), with all these nar­ra­tives that we pro­vide, we could come up with counter iden­tity that is not vi­o­lence, iden­tity that is for peace build­ing, iden­tity that is against hate speech,” he said.

Tir­mizy Ab­dul­lah

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