Being a child of an incarcerated jihadist can have an immense impact on one’s path in life. Consequently, the life of an incarcerated jihadists’ wife becomes extremely stressful as well, due to all of the responsibility and work it takes to be a single parent for their family.
Indonesia is the largest Muslim-majority country. Although the country is often known for its diverse, tolerant religious climate, when jihadism arises, it spreads quite quickly. Counter extremism and rehabilitation is common in Indonesia, and it is aimed at male jihadists, although there are still instances of recidivism.
Recently, two inspiring small-scale programs concerning this problem have begun taking a new approach. These programs are shifting gears and working to empower jihadists’ wives through work and education, as a way to help establish the lives of themselves and their children.
The University of Indonesia’s Police Research Center has run the Entrepreneurship and Proselytization Empowerment Program since 2015 to help the wives of jailed extremists. They aid these women with counseling and business training. The program was created by Professor Sarlito Sarwono, a psychologist with an immense interest in extremism and terrorism.
Although he passed away last November, the program continues and has just wrapped up its first cycle of workshops for jihadists’ wives. The program has reported highly positive results from its 18 participants.
In addition, there is another non-governmental agency that helps the wives, called the Institute for International Peace Building. This institute gives loans and business training to extremists’ wives, focusing on those whose husbands have been released from jail.
The wives who enroll in the Police Research Center’s Program are visited by three people: a psychologist, a Muslim religious teacher known as an ustadh, and a policewoman.
Following two or three visits, the women can then enroll in the program’s workshop.
Nasir Abas, a former terrorist, serves as a vital member in the 16-person Police Research Center’s team. He advises the Indonesian government on counterterrorism, and plays a large role in locating and speaking with imprisoned male extremists. He persuades them to allow their wives to work with the Police Research Center’s Program.
Abas says, “We need these women to be part of counterterrorism because they’re the missing link in the rehabilitation equation. When militant jihadists return from jail, we need another person in their lives to be a positive force.” Otherwise, he says, they face insurmountable odds in resuming a productive life.
There have already been improvements made to the lives of many. Last year, workshops were held last year across Java, Indonesia’s most populous island.
These did not only involve group discussions on the challenges of having your husband in jail and raising children alone, but these women were also receiving business training from Suitie Rahyono, an entrepreneurship professor.
One of the attendees from the training, Husnul Khotimah Tuban, said, “I was able to start my business even though I had no prior experience.” Her business success has given her confidence as a homesteader — and the confidence to talk frankly with her husband, who is still in jail.
These programs give these women the opportunities and resources to take their lives into their own hands. The women can then utilize their strength and power in a way that will benefit them and their families for the rest of their lives.
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