I have been living in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region my entire life. I come from a society that bravely faced terrorism and combatted fearlessly those who wanted to kill enlightened people, to bear clever intellectuals and those courageous activists who did not want an extremist religious state, to put a bullet in the heads of those free minds who had refused to be controlled. When someone talks to me today about extremism and fundamentalism in the world, I perfectly understand what they mean; my beloved country was one of the first countries that had fought those monsters; my region was one of the first regions that has sacrificed its children as those who do not believe in anything but arms came along with their supporters. I knew terrorism yesterday when it costed me the dearest members of my family; I know terrorism today as my country still pays the same price that it has been paying for the last twenty years; and I can assure you: all these military wars against terrorism will not do a thing! Fighting terrorism needs, first and foremost, an intellectual war!


When I see what is happening in this world, I come to a conclusion: people still believe that terrorism can be fought just with an armada of arms! That is completely wrong! Terrorism is, before saying anything else, a complicated and an advanced sort of religious extremism; so fighting terrorism without taking considerable actions towards extremism is like when you have a cancer and instead of doing a surgery or starting radiotherapy, you just give the patient pills to calm the pain; indeed, this method will reduce the discomfort and the suffering, but after a while, the pain will become worst and you will have nothing to do because it will be too late. The thing that I am afraid of is what if it is too late to fight extremism?


Personally, I fully believe that we are still capable of eliminating the source of extremism by promoting human rights and a new open-minded mentality in the MENA region. The problem today is not just few people who decided, at a certain point, to establish their caliphate; it is not also those small jihadist groups that are messing with our world’s future; still, they are part of the problem but not the only part, and for sure not the most important one! The part that I am worried about are those jihadists and future terrorists put in the “silent mode”. The most dangerous thing about war on terrorism is that the coalition of states is after the “actual terrorism” and not the possible “future terrorism”. Where is this “future terrorism”? It is everywhere; future terrorism is all these books that call to murder people because of their religion, their race, their ethnicity, their sect; it is this religious thought that gives a fanatic interpretation of a certain religion. So even if all these states could put an end to the actual terrorism, the actual terrorist groups, there will always be another terrorist around the corner in another country because we never learnt how to eradicate the source of terrorism.


I think the world still does not know what it is facing right now; terrorist groups are not a sort of mercenary groups that you can deal and negotiate with; terrorist groups’ members have a conviction; they are ready to sacrifice their lives to achieve their “holy” dream of a “religious” state. The only hope is to contribute in a social peaceful intellectual ‘revolution’ in the MENA region. The origins of the whole problem are just a result of – and I do not hesitate even for a second to admit this – of the social situation in MENA societies. They are retrograde societies that refuse, in the name of God, everything that comes from the occident. As long as there is always the same mentality in this region, you can be sure that we can never defeat the terrorist threat.


At the end, I truly hope that this world will understand his enemy better because what we are doing right now is messing around with the goblet of fire. Terrorism is not a game, it is a very serious issue that infected our planet and that we have a collective, global responsibility to fight. As one of the activists I know always tell me: “If you do not act today for others, no one will act for you tomorrow”.



This reflection piece is part of the NET-MED Youth Creative Circle initiative.




Zine Labidine GhebouliZine Labidine Ghebouli is a 21-year-old blogger and activist from Algeria. He is currently studying physics at the American University of Beirut (AUB) under a US Department of State scholarship. Zine Labidine is the Global Director of Content at Mostasmer, the first Arabic-language site for investments in education. He is also a writer in the Arabic section of AUB student newspaper and he has worked with several NGOs including the National Democratic Institute and UNICEF, as well as different magazines and newspapers. He was selected as international observer during the Lebanese elections in 2016 and he participated in the launch of the Arab Human Development Report of 2016 in Beirut.






Cover photo: A young artist's painting during the celebrations of International Youth Day 2015, caught on camera by Mahmoud Al Borbar, photographer and member of NET-MED Youth working group in Gaza, Palestine. 

*The ideas and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of UNESCO or those of the European Union. The designations employed and the presentation of material throughout the article do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of UNESCO or the EU concerning the legal status of any country, city or area or of its authorities, or concerning its frontiers or boundaries.*

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