Mothers whose sons and daughters were radicalised and subsequently travelled to Syria come together for a three-day working conference. Affected women from Belgium, Canada, England, France, Germany, and Sweden convene in Vienna to share their stories for the first time in person and in the company of fellow mothers who are facing similar hardship. While the meeting unites affected mothers, it also brings them together with security experts, government representatives, and social workers in an effort to inspire new global soft power PVE approaches.

Mothers are unique witnesses to the pivotal moments in their children’s lives. Law enforcement and security agents, on the other hand, rarely have access to children who are exhibiting signs of radicalisation. Since mothers often are the only ones still to be in touch with sons and daughters who have travelled to Syria, they also tend to become the sole link and point of reference that departed children have with respect to their former lives. Mothers who have observed the various stages of radicalisation in their children can be vital partners in Preventing Violent Extremism (PVE). They are able to heighten awareness of early warning signs to which many families, experts in the field, and at-risk communities generally are oblivious.

Women without Borders (WwB) organises a meeting at which security experts, government representatives, and social workers are given the unique opportunity to develop PVE strategies with entirely new security stakeholders and allies: mothers who unwittingly have observed their adolescent or young adult children embark on a journey into extremism. The participants together explore new avenues and mechanisms to strengthen community resilience and healing whilst considering any hidden barriers to mobilising mothers’ voices.

Uniting mothers for the first time through an emerging international platform, the event will culminate in an evening panel presentation where affected mothers share their testimonies to raise awareness of their experiences, embolden individuals to break the silence surrounding the taboo topic of extremism, and encourage other mothers to act on worrisome developments in their children in a confident and competent manner. Moreover, the mothers can thus pave the way for other concerned and affected parents to break down the stigma, respond in an informed way, and safeguard their children from the lure of violent ideologies and recruiters.

Founder and Executive Director at WwB Dr. Edit Schlaffer welcomes the participants and audience members, and Rudolf Hundstorfer (Austrian Minister for Labour, Social Affairs, and Consumer Protection) and Eric K. Lundberg (Counselor for Economic and Political Affairs, U.S. Embassy, Vienna) provide introductory remarks.

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