Can Violent Extremists Leave Their Pasts Behind?

Oct 26, 2023

Guest host Michael Niconchuk looks for answers with experts Juncal Fernandez-Garayzabal and Noah Tucker.

Violent extremism is growing globally. It doesn’t know religion or creed. Where once it was confined to specific ideology or identity groups, at least in public discourse and discussion, now it appears across societies, across cultures and across borders. Violent extremist ideologies and actions are becoming part of the global fabric.

Why do people get involved in this type of violence? How can they disengage? Can violent extremists be helped to reenter society integrated in healthy, socially positive, empowered ways to engage as productive and peaceful citizens?

In this episode of New Thinking for a New World, guest host Michael Niconchuk looks for answers. Mike, a Tällberg Foundation board member, serves on the Advisory Board of the Counter Extremism Project and is a program manager at the Wend Collective. His guests are Juncal Fernandez-Garayzabal, development and program manager at the Counter Extremism Project, and Noah Tucker, program associate at George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs Central Asia Program.

Can violent extremists once again become productive citizens? Can you imagine someone with that history living next door to you? Let us know what you think by commenting below

Listen to the episode here or find the New Thinking for a New World podcast on a platform of your choice (Apple podcastSpotify, Google podcastYoutube, etc


Juncal Fernandez-Garayzabal, Ph.D., is Counter Extremism Project’s (CEP) Development and Program Manager, but she is also one of the co-founders of Parallel Networks, a 501C3 non-profit organization set up to combat polarization, hate and extremism in the United States. Juncal has gained professional experience researching conflicts, forced migrations, organized crime and security. Her research has developed through collaboration in projects with institutions like Georgetown University, the Hague Centre for Strategic Studies and UNICEF Madrid. She also gained hands-on experience in peacebuilding while in Latin America and Africa, where she provided psychosocial support to internally displaced populations and other victims of extremism and violence in post-conflict settings. Since 2019 she has been working to build the capacity of several countries, including the United States, the Republic of the Maldives, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan to effectively rehabilitate and reintegrate individuals returning from conflict areas and those convicted for extremism-related offenses.

Noah Tucker is a program associate at George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs Central Asia Program. He was previously Executive Editor for the Not in Our Name film and television series, the first region-wide project designed to prevent violent extremism in Central Asia through community dialogues in areas most directly affected by recruiting to Syria. Noah has worked as a consultant on multiple collaborative projects for government, academic and international organizations to identify the way social and religious groups affect political and security outcomes in Central Asia and Afghanistan. Recent publications include “Uzbek Women in the Syrian Conflict: First-Person Narratives and Gendered Perspectives on Mobilization and De-Mobilization.” Noah has worked on Central Asian issues since 2002—specializing in religion, national identity, ethnic conflict and social media—and received an MA from Harvard in Russian, East European and Central Asian Studies in 2008 and is currently a recipient of the Handa Studentship at the Handa Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence at the University of St Andrews (Scotland). He has spent some six years living and working in in the region, primarily in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan and works in Russian and Uzbek. He most recently conducted fieldwork and training to support reintegration efforts for returnees from the Syrian conflict in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan in October 2023.


Michael Niconchuk is a researcher and practitioner at the intersection of psychological trauma recovery, migration, and violence prevention. Trained in security studies, international relations, and social cognition, Michael has worked for more than a decade in the Middle East, Central Asia, and the Balkans to support local capacities to offer evidence-based care for persons affected by violent conflict, extremism, and displacement, including extensive work on innovative community programs and policy to support the healing and wholeness of folks affected by the Syrian conflict as well as the return and rehabilitation of the families of foreign terrorist fighters in the Middle East. He is the author of The Field Guide for Barefoot Psychology and numerous publications on mental health, identity-based violence, and migration.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recent podcasts

Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap