Belgium: Healing, Resilience & Preventing Extremism

About This Project


Since 2012, youth between age 14 to 25 have been secretly leaving their Belgian homes and families to go to Syria and join the ISIS cause. With a total of 482 official departures, Belgium has the highest recruitment rate of foreign fighters in Europe as a % of their population.

This has left families distraught and broken, and led to harsh stigmatisation, loss of jobs and respect within the community. These families were given very little support to ‘deal’ with the situation as for most of them, the disappearing of their children was unexpected and sudden.

IAHV has been working with the mothers of these foreign fighters to support their healing process, imparting practical tools to restrengthen their inner resilience and move towards acceptance of what has happened in order to reconstruct a stable family environment.

TRAUMA-RELIEF AND HEALING for survivors of terror attacks

March 22, 2016 – Brussels experienced its worst nightmare – 2 terrorist attacks at the airport and metro station near the EU quarter during peak hours – leaving 32 dead, hundreds injured and thousands traumatised.

Since then, IAHV has assisted in different ways by offering free trauma relief sessions to the Belgian public as of the next day of the explosions as well as supporting airport staff suffering from PTSD.


From the airport staff group, there was a drop of 60% in their daily anxiety level as well as sleeping disorders. Their energy level increased by 40% and all of them had better control of their thoughts and memories. Another 60% drop was observed in both their level of feeling irritated and in their difficulty to concentrate.


In April 2017 we provided a Professional Excellence training for youth lawyers in Antwerp who work with difficult youths and are looking for alternative interventions for returnees and radicalized youth instead of prison. 

On the invitation of Brussels Prevention and Security (BPS), IAHV is providing three trainings on Preventing Extremism and Self Management for agents working on preventing radicalisation and violence in Brussels.

In September 2017, IAHV conducted a Preventing Extremism and Stress Resilience program for youth facilitators in Laeken to strengthen their inner resilience as well as empower them with in-depth knowledge on the psychosocial factors driving youth towards violence, gangs and radicalisation. Two weeks later Walk-In workshops were organised offering something the youth had never experienced before : learning to overcome their restlessness, developing a finer sense of awareness and having fun at the same time.  


Our main partner in this initiative has been SAVE Belgium, founded by one of the mothers, who is a pillar of strength for the others. SAVE Belgium is also a partner in a number of initiatives to support affected families as well as preventing further extremism among the youth.

IAHV has also partnered with Families Against Violent Extremism (FATE) to share know-how and to provide sustainable programs for dealing with trauma and prevention of further extremism.



Saliha, Molenbeek, IAHV Training
Fatima, Antwerpen, IAHV Training

“I learned to accept the situation, to live with it. I am able to forgive myself and to forgive my son now.” Mother of a foreign fighter, Antwerp

“During this program I didn’t feel judged nor was I judging others. Through this program, I realise I have to accept myself without judgment.” Mother of a suicide bomber, Brussels 

“This program helps me empty the negative influences and not to feel frustrated” Mother whose son passed away 3 months after reaching Syria

“I learned to be more in the present moment. I learned that instead of being stuck in the past, it is best to go through the pain and suffering in order to transform it into something better. It’s a real life training this program. It should be accessible to all communities. ” Mother of two sons gone to Syria.

“For two months I have been sleeping with a butcher knife under my pillow, because I was engulfed by fear. And last night, I put the knife back in the kitchen where it belongs. I didn’t sleep peacefully, but I know this is the way forward to break away from my pattern since the Brussels airport bombing”. Survivor of Brussels airport attack

“I always woke up 7 to 10 times a night the past 2 months, it was exhausting. Now I only wake up twice a night and using the breathing techniques, I’m able to go back to sleep quickly”. Survivor of Brussels airport attack

“This was very enriching, hopeful and encouraging – according to me an enormous potential for our society! This seems very applicable for many youth and children, not just radicalized, but also victims of child prostitution, youth who are lost and estranged from themselves, as well as for youth workers to increase their capacity to deal with stressful situations.”Youth Lawyer Antwerp

“I loved the program and learned to live in the present and progress in the future with a calm mind and without judgment”. Sister of two brothers captured in Turkey on their way to Syria (no news from them since Sept 2015)

“After doing this program, I feel ready to go back to work at the airport. I feel happy about it and I know I will be fine”. Survivor of Brussels airport attack

“Since doing the training, my colleagues are amazed at how serene I am despite the regular challenges we face”. Belgian prevention agent

“This is the best training I’ve ever been to”. Belgian prevention agent

“I feel like a mountain was lifted off my shoulders”. Belgian youth center director

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