AS (2016) CR 06
Addendum 1



(First part)


Sixth sitting

Wednesday, 27 January 2016 at 3.30 p.m.


Joint Debate:

Combating international terrorism while protecting Council of Europe standards and values
Foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq

The following texts were submitted for inclusion in the official report by members who were present in the Chamber but were prevented by lack of time from delivering them.

Mr BYRNE (United Kingdom) – I welcome these reports from the bottom of my heart; they are well tempered and well timed.

The reality, as we have heard all week, is that we are facing the surge of the century: a record surge in fighters pouring out, a record surge of families pouring in, and a new surge of incitement online. We will win – the only question is how fast and at what cost.

The ideas in these reports will bring victory closer. However, I want to underline one recommendation where I say – in all candour –to the Assembly, we must do more, and do it faster, and that is creating the counter-narrative to hate. Our opponents want to build an empire of intolerance that stretches from Portugal to Pakistan, but despite their imperial ambitions they are today an insurgency, and what we have learned from fighting insurgencies is that you cannot kill your way to victory. Victory needs politics, and to win in politics we must win the battle of ideas. We can beat them theologically, because they are heretics who, like all heretics down the ages, claim to be “holier than thou”. The key battleground is, however, political, and here we must expose the horror of their political project: a project to roll up 67 countries, beautiful in their diversity and home to a billion Muslims of many different Islamic traditions, in order to create a 21st century totalitarian theocracy run on 7th century values, where they end all freedom of thought, conscience, and religion – all the rights enshrined in Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Around this truth, we can and must reframe our argument. There is not a clash of civilisations between Islam and the West. This is a clash within a civilisation: the civilisation of the Middle East. It is a clash between a tiny minority of warped, heretical theocrats and those who want to be free. So let us commend these reports. But in the months to come, let us stop talking about the need for a counter-narrative and let us start writing it down. It is a story as old as this Assembly―a story about how we stand shoulder to shoulder with those who want nothing more than the quiet miracle of a normal life and the freedom to worship who and how they please.

Ms CHRISTOFFERSEN (Norway) – The two reports before us are closely related. I will concentrate on foreign fighters, bearing the other one in mind.

Several kinds of instruments are needed to prevent future terrorist attacks, like those in Paris, Beirut and elsewhere. To find those instruments, we need to understand the root causes and the motivations of individuals who turn into foreign fighters. We need to know who they are.

According to the report, they are driven mainly by ideology, religion and kinship. Kadafi Zaman, a highly respected Norwegian journalist, has, in a series of articles on Norwegian foreign fighters, launched another theory, partly based on reports from the Norwegian Police Security Service and partly based on his own research. Norwegian foreign fighters in Syria, and the IS-sympathisers back home, are primarily outcasts― nevertheless very dangerous. Many of them have a criminal background. We find among them drug addicts, as well as robbers and assailants. They have a low level of education and have problems finding a job and in their relationship to girls. At the same time, we see young girls leaving for Syria without their parents’ knowledge. Their driving force seems to be love affairs through internet and a wish to escape social control. Usually, they find themselves worse off than before.

Although the foreign fighters are seemingly ideologically driven, this is not usually the case. According to Zaman, sex and violence are more of a driving force than the Koran and Allah. In fact, they know very little about the Koran. Their process of radicalisation does not take place within a mosque ― they are rather self-radicalised google-muslims. The pattern is very similar to that of the Norwegian terrorist who massacred 77 people in 2011. He was also an outcast and a self-radicalised right wing extremist. As the President of Bulgaria said yesterday, radicalisation has no skin colour.

Surveillance and punishment is needed. The lesson to be learned, however, is that we also need a more comprehensive policy for integration and affiliation, all the way through kindergarten and school, into working life and recreational activities. Prejudices need to be fought wherever they appear. At the national political level, everything must be done to ensure that local authorities have the necessary economic and professional capabilities to give all inhabitants, whatever their background, a fair chance in life. That will be the best weapon in the fight against IS, a terrorist group that takes advantage of young, vulnerable people, and furthermore, it is in accordance with our European standards.

      Mr KIRAL (Ukraine) – Proper analysis of the root causes is particularly important to address this issue. I believe we should seek them in the analysis of every element of our societies, as well as of those empowered to rule them. The latter is particularly important because whenever you have an authoritarian regime in power, the interaction with its citizens and with the international community is limited, which consequently jeopardises the chances of finding a solution and an overspill affecting other nations is inevitable.

        On reading the report, under point 13 of the chapter dedicated to understanding the foreign fighters phenomenon, you will find only three lines on Russia; Russia ― one of the biggest terrorist-sponsoring States ― deserved only three lines. If this is the way we deal with the subject, it will never be properly tackled.  Let me just remind you all that: Russia has done nothing, and is doing nothing to shut down the social media/Internet sites openly recruiting citizens for terrorism in Ukraine; Russian oligarchs with direct links to the Kremlin are heavily involved in sponsoring many NGOs and social media efforts to recruit fighters; as a State, it does not intervene or control  NGOs or any other groups which openly promote extremism and xenophobia, unless they are funded by the European Commission or United States government ― so-called ― foreign agents. In today’s globalised world with its ubiquitous social media, the example it sets is devastating, and if not stopped it will have long-term consequences.


Moreover, as regards the manipulation of beliefs and ideology as one of the root causes stated by the report, Russia uses a propaganda machine with an annual budget of over US$1.5 billion. It promulgates xenophobic messages on how evil our western societies are, which very much facilitates the recruitment of citizens to go to Syria or Iraq and fight with its proxy enemy.  We had a previous debate on migration and I remember the words of the rapporteur on criminal groups that advertise on social media, targeting those seeking better lives ― Russia's alleged involvement with these groups shall also be investigated by competent bodies.


So, what do we do? We do not lift the sanctions already imposed but seek ways to maintain them, not the other way around.