[Jakarta, 2 February 2023] The key to accessing deradicalisation and post-release programs for extremist prisoners often rests on their renouncing violence and signing a declaration of loyalty to the Indonesian republic. Both women and men can face social ostracism from their old networks by taking this step, but the women prisoners can face particularly stressful consequences, including summary divorce by angry husbands. Authorities need to provide the women with the tools and support that can help them face these circumstances.
The Consequences of Renouncing Extremism for Indonesian Women Prisoners, the latest report from the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC), examines the stories of five women arrested on terrorism charges and how they decided whether to sign the loyalty declaration. As of January 2023, 26 of the 57 women arrested for terrorism since 2004 had pledged loyalty to the Indonesian state. Some signed the declaration while in police custody, some did so in prison after trial and conviction, while a few others renounced violence after their release.
“Assistance for women extremists must consider their personal trajectories and relationships with their significant others,” says Dyah Kartika, IPAC analyst. “Persuading a woman to disengage from extremism may depend in part on the strength of her ties to extremist networks and degree of support from family members, but also on her own self-confidence to withstand social pressure.”
If they try to disengage, women may be taunted and treated as traitors by their extremist peers. If they refuse to renounce violence, they may be stigmatised as terrorists by their communities at home. Either way, they may be ostracised or face crises in their personal relationships.
The declaration of loyalty to the state thus needs to be followed up with sustained and carefully planned programs, but resources to help women extremists are even less than for men. There has been no systematic religious counselling or vocational training based on their interests, skills, or labour market needs. Post-release assistance is also limited, even though many of the extremist women who want to redirect their lives after release are the family breadwinners or contribute significantly to the family income. One of the few interventions that women have found useful is the opportunity for discussions with other released women, often organised by civil society organisations, about their shared experiences.