The terrorists just want your Playstation

This article from the Saudi-owned newspaper Asharq Alawsat on a rehabilitation program the kingdom is running for former jihadists is nothing short of mystifying in its portrayal of the Saudis’ attitudes. The article never really says what the young men going through the program have done, only that they have been detained for “security reasons.” ...

By , a former associate editor at Foreign Policy.
599519_070907_ps2_05.jpg
599519_070907_ps2_05.jpg

This article from the Saudi-owned newspaper Asharq Alawsat on a rehabilitation program the kingdom is running for former jihadists is nothing short of mystifying in its portrayal of the Saudis' attitudes. The article never really says what the young men going through the program have done, only that they have been detained for "security reasons." It does note that one detainee's "hands have been deformed as a result of being manipulated in a bombing incident." But if you were expecting harsh treatment from a country with one of the world's worst human rights records, think again. Terrorist rehabilitation doesn't sound so bad:

The Ministry of Interior has provided the grounds and facilities for the implementation of the rehabilitation program, which include football Pitches and swimming pools, among other recreational facilities. Additionally, there is also a library, research hall and classroom. Moreover, those in charge did not overlook the fact that the detainees are quite young in age, thus providing them with games, including PlayStation.

Sheikh Ahmad Jailan, the coordinator of the care program, recounts the story of one of the detainees who upon his release insisted on taking the PlayStation with him. He would not budge so that those in charge could do little but give in to his pleas, however only after consulting his colleagues first. The PlayStation was replaced by another one so that the rest of the detainees could still play. Officials at the Ministry of Interior do not hesitate to meet the requirements requested by the detainees, in addition to providing them with foodstuffs, including chocolates and sweets.

This article from the Saudi-owned newspaper Asharq Alawsat on a rehabilitation program the kingdom is running for former jihadists is nothing short of mystifying in its portrayal of the Saudis’ attitudes. The article never really says what the young men going through the program have done, only that they have been detained for “security reasons.” It does note that one detainee’s “hands have been deformed as a result of being manipulated in a bombing incident.” But if you were expecting harsh treatment from a country with one of the world’s worst human rights records, think again. Terrorist rehabilitation doesn’t sound so bad:

The Ministry of Interior has provided the grounds and facilities for the implementation of the rehabilitation program, which include football Pitches and swimming pools, among other recreational facilities. Additionally, there is also a library, research hall and classroom. Moreover, those in charge did not overlook the fact that the detainees are quite young in age, thus providing them with games, including PlayStation.

Sheikh Ahmad Jailan, the coordinator of the care program, recounts the story of one of the detainees who upon his release insisted on taking the PlayStation with him. He would not budge so that those in charge could do little but give in to his pleas, however only after consulting his colleagues first. The PlayStation was replaced by another one so that the rest of the detainees could still play. Officials at the Ministry of Interior do not hesitate to meet the requirements requested by the detainees, in addition to providing them with foodstuffs, including chocolates and sweets.

Remember, this is a country where last spring a man was beaten to death by religious police after being suspected of alcohol possession. The priorities of the rehabilitators seem pretty clear from their staffing:

The advisory program is comprised of four subcommittees: The Religious Committee, the Psychosocial Committee, the Security Committee, and the Media Committee. The number of religious specialists working in these committees is approximated at 160 personnel, while the social and psychological workers number 40. [my emphasis]

The educators also have an interesting definition of “success”:

Thus far, it has recorded considerable success; 700 of the detainees were released on the recommendation of the committee after being thoroughly assessed.

I don’t mean to get all Rudy Giuliani here, but I think most people would define success by what these guys do after they’re released.

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @joshuakeating

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