Victims' Voices, Silencing Terrorism: A Story of Impact to Prevent Terrorism

<div style="text-align:justify">An Iraqi victim of terrorism creates clay sculptures which entails the use of art as part of a rehabilitation process within the UNODC programme.</div>
An Iraqi victim of terrorism creates clay sculptures which entails the use of art as part of a rehabilitation process within the UNODC programme.
Victims of terrorism are innocent citizens who find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time, randomly targeted in brutal attacks. The lives of survivors, and those of their families, can be irrevocably changed. Many victims take years to recover from their injuries or come to terms with their losses. Without help, trauma can stay with victims for life. Aware of this importance, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has partnered with Iraqi authorities, in collaboration with the Lebanese Association for Victims of Terrorism (AVT-L), and with funding from the Kingdom of the Netherlands on the project “Supporting victims of terrorism within the criminal justice framework, including psychological support” in Iraq.
The project started in 2020 and achieved notable impact by working to address the different challenges faced by victims of terrorism in the aftermath of terrorist attacks in Iraq. The achievements of the project include providing psychological and psychosocial support to victims; supporting the coordination of  law enforcement,  criminal justice and other relevant agencies involved at all stages of victims’ interaction with the criminal justice system; promoting victim-sensitive approaches to dealing with victims; enhancing the knowledge of effective procedures regulating victims’ status, participation and protection in court proceedings, as well as the timely and fair restitution, reparation and compensation; as well as understanding  the role of the media in raising awareness on the resilience of the victims.
“The impact of the programme on victims, particularly young people, has become increasingly evident over the past two years. Some have returned to university, while others have taken steps to re-build relationships with their families. Some have begun to consider re-entering the workforce, and others have made efforts to improve their physical appearance and accept their disabilities, allowing them to focus on their future,” affirmed Roula Helou, Co-founder and President of AVT-L.
Some of the notable achievements included the enhancement of the skills and knowledge of over 180 individuals representing various Iraqi national agencies with the criminal justice system on the rights of victims of terrorism and on ensuring international standards and regulations were upheld to safeguard the rights of victims, and to strengthen the evidence-based approach to investigating, prosecuting, and adjudicating terrorism cases. Furthermore, the project worked to enhance the role and capabilities of defense attorneys in representing and supporting victims of terrorism during criminal proceedings. Lastly, the project contributed to increasing awareness of the critical need for more collaboration between civil society, media, and national authorities in supporting victims of terrorism. By fostering this integrated and coordinated approach, the project sought to contribute to countering violent extremism that leads to terrorism.
UNODC Executive Director, Ghada Waly, reflected on this subject’s importance and noted that “We must continue to amplify the voices of victims around the world, and let their insights and their resolve guide us towards more effective and sustainable responses. More needs to be done to establish accountability for terrorism-related crimes and to address the conditions conducive to terrorism.”
To mark such achievements of the project and to raise awareness on the importance of the rights of victims of terrorism, UNODC, with support from AVT-L and the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), launched the “Victims’ Voices, Silencing Terrorism” Campaign. The Campaign was conducted in June 2023 through a combination of social media outreach and on-the-ground presence in Baghdad, Iraq. The campaign reached 23 million people in Iraq and the Middle East and North Africa region and focused on providing an alternative narrative to that of terrorist groups by raising awareness of the resilience of victims of terrorism and the importance of having their voices heard. The messages and stories they tell have the power to silence the negative and harmful fear-oriented messages spread by terrorist groups. The campaign featured several victims of terrorism supported by the project, as they used their voices to tell their own stories of resilience and overcoming and spoke of how more victims should be encouraged to do the same. The campaign also highlighted the importance of understanding who is a victim of terrorism, what are victims’ needs, the role of the community, and the achievements of the project.
This story, the last in a five-part series, marks the International Day of Remembrance of and Tribute to the Victims of Terrorism on 21 August. This year, on the sixth commemoration of this International Day, we must reflect on the powerful voices of victims of terrorism as they create meaningful and positive change by raising awareness about the long-lasting impact of terrorism and by honouring those whose lives were lost and those whose lives were forever altered.
Click on the following links to watch videos of the campaign:
Part 1 – “We asked victims of terrorism in Iraq to tell us their story, this is what they said”
Part 2 – “Their journey of hope, victims of terrorism in Iraq”
Part 3 – “Impact driven –supporting victims of terrorism project in Iraq”
Full Documentary – “Victims' Voices, Silencing Terrorism" Campaign
To read the remainder of the stories’ series :