ISD Lebanon and Jordan

ISD has been working in Lebanon and Jordan since 2016, empowering local governments, youth and practitioners.

Our work in Lebanon and Jordan is primarily delivered through our flagship Strong Cities Network regional project and the Young Cities programme.

The Strong Cities Network in Jordan and Lebanon
ISD’s regional programme in the Middle East aims to support municipalities in strengthening their abilities to coordinate and deliver local P/CVE strategies and activities. By providing municipalities with the knowledge and tools needed to identify and react to early signs of radicalisation, ISD seeks to reduce the presence of violent extremism within Lebanese and Jordanian communities. This work is delivered through a model of Local Prevention Networks (LPNs).

Current priorities of the programme include:

  • In Tripoli, the team is developing a critical programme of work for ex-prisoners and those leaving the prison system, providing skills training, employment opportunities and professional psychosocial support. This is a potentially ground-breaking pilot project, tackling trauma, disenfranchisement, marginalisation and unemployment as drivers of violent extremism.
  • In Saida, launch of a dedicated Psychosocial Support Unit to provide psychosocial support and help for parents concerned about vulnerable children. In due course, the unit will be trained to recognise early warning signs of violence and manage and refer individual cases.
  • In Majdal Anjar, the LPN is working to counter stigmatisation of vulnerable communities, training young men and women from refugee as well as host communities with digital marketing skills while raising awareness around hate speech and disinformation on social media.
  • In Jordan, the LPNs in Irbid, Karak and Zarqa are organising a monthly Diwaneyat dialogue series on extremism-related issues, bringing together policymakers, academics, religious leaders, youth workers and civil society members. A dedicated library of Arabic training resources has been compiled to support trainings on human security and preventing violent extremism.

The Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs began funding the programme in 2016, facilitating the establishment of six local prevention networks in Lebanon and Jordan. In 2019, the programme continued with funding from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In addition to direct programming, the team convenes local policymakers in Lebanon and Jordan with their counterparts in the Netherlands to examine the reintegration and rehabilitation of returnees and detainees through the Dutch ‘Safety Houses’ model. The SCN implements its programme in close partnership with the National PVE Unit at the Council of Ministers in Lebanon and with the Ministry of Local Administration in Jordan.

Young Cities in Lebanon
ISD’s long-running SCN/YouthCAN project Young Cities operates in Lebanon, Senegal, Kenya and North Macedonia. Young Cities works in partnership with both young people and local government to enhance and support youth-led solutions to community challenges such as hate, polarisation, extremism and violence.

In Lebanon, Young Cities delivers ISD’s Youth Innovation Lab model with local partners and staff. This includes delivery of training workshops to support the development and implementation of youth-led initiatives across three cities, tackling issues such as inter-faith relations in Tripoli and marginalisation of refugees in Saida. In all three cities, activities are delivered with buy-in and support from the SCN’s Local Prevention Networks and key municipal focal points.

MENA-focused Research
ISD leads pioneering multilingual research into digital Salafi-jihadist ecosystems online, tracking and monitoring the tactics and trends of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), al-Qaeda, and their affiliates. Our team of researchers examine how these groups leverage interconnected networks of websites, social media accounts, and messaging applications, to galvanize and mobilize supporters. ISD’s MENA digital research team has brought down coordinated networks of ISIS supporters on Facebook; unearthed terabyte-large digital archives; and reported on cross-organisational learning between groups online. The team has similarly discovered and reported on Arabic-language COVID-19 disinformation networks operating bogus think tanks, and ‘scientific collectives’ on platforms such as Facebook and YouTube. The work of the MENA digital research team has been featured in Wired, the BBC and the Daily Beast.

Context
ISD’s team in Beirut are operating in one of the most challenging global environments. COVID-19 restrictions, the tragic blast in Beirut’s port in August 2020, and the protracted political, economic and social crises in Lebanon make engagement with local community stakeholders exceptionally challenging. ISD has provided context-sensitive responses to these evolving challenges, leading community-based initiatives and capacity-building programmes that reduce radicalisation risk factors and provide communities and youth with a resilience, safety and leadership agenda.

The SCN was one of the first responders following the tragic blast. ISD’s SCN and Young Cities teams, in cooperation with our LPNs, helped provide emergency assistance, cleaning services and food distribution to some of the worst-hit neighbourhoods and most vulnerable people. The SCN contributed to preparing and delivering 7,000 hot meals and food baskets and helped restore 24 destroyed homes.

The Young Cities team mobilises to assist victims of the Beirut blasts, August, 2020

ISD’s MENA team

Rashad Ali
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Rashad Ali

Resident Senior Fellow

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Rashad Ali
Rashad Ali

Resident Senior Fellow

Rashad Ali is a Resident Senior Fellow at ISD. Rashad is a counter terrorism practitioner who works on deradicalisation initiatives alongside Prisons, Probation Services, Police and community groups. He was formerly a national leadership member of Hizb ut-Tahrir, the revolutionary Islamist organisation and has been actively involved in undermining its extreme ideology and perversion of Muslim faith since his departure. As a researcher he has given testimony and contributed submissions to the Home Affairs Select Committee on Radicalisation, the Parliamentary Select Committee on Intelligence and has briefed the London Mayor's office on Counter Terrorism and has been consulted by think tanks and governments in Germany, Denmark, the EU and the US. He is an external lecturer for Derby University’s Master Class courses on Radicalisation and Counter Terrorism. He has written for The Observer, The Guardian, The Telegraph, The Independent, The Times, Dissent Magazine, Birlingske in Denmark, Conservative Home, and given commentary for Newsnight, BBC News. He is the author of Islam, Shariah and the Far Right published by Demoqratiya journal, A Guide to Refuting Jihadism published by HJS and EFD, and the author of the ISD report Blasphemy, Charlie Hebdo, and the Freedom of Belief and Expression. He is classically trained in Islamic theology and jurisprudence and Modern studies in Islam. He studied at al-Azhar University, Cairo, and the Markfield Institute.
Lama El-Awad
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Lama El-Awad

Regional Manager at ISD for the Strong Cities Network (SCN)

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Lama El-Awad
Lama El-Awad

Regional Manager at ISD for the Strong Cities Network (SCN)

Lama El-Awad is a Regional Manager at ISD for the Strong Cities Network (SCN) in Lebanon and Jordan, working across both countries to provide support to SCN, subnational entities and local prevention networks to prevent and counter violent extremism. Lama is also responsible for managing member engagement in the Middle East region, including through city exchanges, practitioner workshops, and direct city consultations on local P/CVE strategy and practice. Lama is also a founding member of “Dawaer,” a Lebanese NGO committed to increasing the resilience of children and youth. Lama is also a trainer on child rights and peacebuilding, advocating for issues related to human rights, gender, diversity and peace, and has contributed to several campaigns such as the “Campaign against Child Marriage”, the “Petition and Complaint” campaign, and the reform of the civic education curriculum in Lebanon.
Ghida Elassaad
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Ghida Elassaad

Project Coordinator, Strong Cities Network, Lebanon and Jordan

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Ghida Elassaad
Ghida Elassaad

Project Coordinator, Strong Cities Network, Lebanon and Jordan

Ghida Elassaad is a Project Coordinator for the Strong Cities Network (SCN) in Lebanon and Jordan. She is responsible for coordinating the implementation of community based activities and capacity building activities for local stakeholders and partners. Ghida has been engaged previously in prevention of violent extremism, dialogue, peace building, relief, education and civic engagement programs in various projects in Lebanon.