The Prevention of Violent Extremism at the heart of a debate competition among Tunisian students

"I always hear about extremists, especially terrorists, through social networks and media outlets, and I never bothered to find out what motivates a young person to join these groups. I realized that I had a tendency to stigmatize young people from the most excluded regions, instead of understanding the challenges they face and identifying possible solutions to integrate them," shared a Tunisian student who took part in the training sessions on preventing violent extremism through debate, organized by the Tunisian youth-led organization iiDebate on 30 October 2019. 

These two trainings, organized within the framework of the project "Prevention of Violent Extremism through Youth Empowerment in Jordan, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia", brought together some 30 students and five teachers to discover the basics of debating, as well as argumentation and research techniques on the prevention of violent extremism. The goal of these workshops was to train the students for a vast debate competition that took place at ENSTAB (The National School of Advanced Science and Technology in Borj Cédria) on 24 November 2019. The competition’s model was based on the "World School Debate Competition", which is used by the British Parliament to debate laws. This enabled iiDebate to introduce young students to advocacy and, above all, to propose applicable solutions in terms of preventing violent extremism through constructive exchanges.

During the trainings, participants found that the concept of extremism was generally linked to terrorism and Islam. In order to clarify this confusion, the young students conducted research on the terminology of violent extremism.

The debate appeared to be a privileged tool for talking about violent extremism, as it helps to establish a non-violent culture of sharing opinions on sensitive or even taboo subjects within universities.

The training sessions on 30 October, as well as the debate competition, were held in English. Indeed, most of the research and sources on the subject are in English, and conducting advocacy exercises in English is a good way for young people to raise awareness beyond their community or country. It is a way to make their voices heard on the international stage. Participants were divided into 6 teams of 3 people. They were accompanied by 5 professors and a representative of the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research. They were also joined by about 30 students from the ENSTAB institution, coming from different regions across the country, including Bizerte, Nabeul and Ariana.