(MENAFN - Arab News) Eleven women have successfully undergone the rehabilitation program at the Prince Muhammad bin Naif Center for Counseling and Care and have been integrated back into society, according to Maj. Gen. Saeed Al-Beeshi, director of the center.
Al-Beeshi clarified that Saudi jails do not imprison women charged on extremist cases. "The female convict linked to terror is serving her sentence under house arrest and not in jail," Al-Beeshi told participants who visited the center recently on the sidelines of the conference on UN Cooperation with Counter Terrorism Centers in the capital.
A criminal court in Riyadh sentenced the woman, dubbed as the "Al-Qaeda lady," to a 15-year jail sentence and banned her from traveling abroad for another 15 years after she completes the punishment. A women's section was recently established in the center, staffed by female academics with experience in dealing with matters related to extremism and rehabilitation, he said, adding that three of the women admitted to the rehabilitation program are from Riyadh, while the seven others are from Makkah and one from Asir. The center also visited 22 families as part of the rehabilitation program because family members may have been influenced by dangerous extremist ideologies and would therefore impede the recovery of the inmates. Commenting on the center's achievements, Al-Beeshi said expatriates from 51 countries living in the Kingdom benefitted from the center's programs, which included a host of interactive sessions, forums and religious sermons.
He put the total number of individual counseling sessions for the inmates at 8,196 sittings of which 92 percent were successful, while 7.5 percent of the inmates refused to interact with the counselors and a small percentage recorded, 0.5 percent, did not wish to enter the counseling center. "We encountered difficulties with 13 extremists who refused to participate in the counseling session. However, after repeated interventions and persuasion, we were able to convince them to attend the sessions.
We employ psychological, religious and social counselors, in addition to exposing the inmates to religious sermons on radio and television," he said. According to Al-Beeshi, the total number of those who were admitted to the rehabilitation program is recorded at 3,360, including 20 Guantanamo detainees.
Meanwhile, rehabilitation efforts did not reach 22 of the men and it was documented that two died, 13 are still in prison and the police has issued an arrest warrant on seven others, he added.
Amongst other obstacles, Al-Beeshi recounted that extremist inmates frequently question whether it is religiously correct to join an international organization. "We persuaded the inmates to alter their misconceptions throughout numerous lectures and sessions," he said.
He added that from a total of 220 staff members in the center, 131 of them are preachers and counselors.
Moreover, all the men admitted to the rehabilitation center received financial aid and other assistance upon completion of their programs. The support extended to them encompassed financial assistance to get married as well as aid to enable them to receive health treatment and to return back to work.
The total cost for the centers in Riyadh and Jeddah is estimated at SR 144.2 million and efforts are currently underway to open three more centers.