NEWS
29/01/2018 00:16 GMT | Updated 29/01/2018 04:09 GMT

Terror Attack Survivors And Bereaved Families Launch New Group To Fight Extremism

Survivors Against Terror to campaign for improved policies and support.

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Mike Haines (left) and Brendan Cox.

Terror attack survivors and bereaved families have joined forces to form a new campaign group that will work to tackle the “hatred and division that is giving rise to extremism”.

Survivors Against Terror - which is being founded by victims of Islamist bombings, IRA attacks and far-right extremist murders - will lobby the Government on counter-terror policies and improved support for victims.

Brendan Cox, the widower of murdered Labour MP Jo Cox, and Dan Hett, who lost his 22-year-old brother Martyn in the Manchester Arena attack, are among the founders.

Mike Haines, whose brother David was beheaded on camera after being held captive by Islamic State in Syria,  Paralympian and 7/7 survivor Martine Wiltshire and Tunisia resort shooting victim Gina Van Dort are also involved.

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Dan Hett (far left) and at brother Martyn Hett's funeral at Stockport Town Hall.

The group officially launches on Monday, and it is urging other survivors to join.

Hett, who began campaigning against online hate speech soon after his brother’s death, told HuffPost UK he hoped the “power of a group” would help to get their message across.

“As a group, we are very varied,” he said. “Ethnically, ideologically, religiously.

“However, we are united by the fact we have either directly or indirectly been affected by these incidents. I think that gives us a voice, above and beyond a typical campaign group. And it’s that kind of voice that sets us apart.”

More details can be found at www.survivorsagainstterror.org

He added: “Jo Cox was murdered by a right-wing neo-Nazi extremist; my brother was murdered by an Islamic fundamentalist extremist.

“They are world’s apart on the spectrum - but in terms of the rhetoric that has given rise to these things, it feels like a single problem.”

Hett, a software engineer, explains he spoke out against the “instantaneous painting of all Muslims” as the same “based on the actions of one extremist” after his brother was killed, and received “aggressive threats”.

“The internet became a horrible place for me,” he said. “I was almost unable to function on things like Twitter. There was unrelenting abuse. Brendan, in particular, has been subject to the most shocking abuse.”

He has already started grassroots campaigning in an attempt to counter the hate being fanned online. 

After it was announced Katie Hopkins planned to talk at a series of schools, Hett offered to speak wherever they said ‘no’.

He said: “I think I’ve had 80-odd schools. It has been absolutely over-whelming. That was just myself - now we are a group. That engagement is at the core of what we will do.”

Last year was one of the worst for terrorism in the UK. Attacks at Westminster Bridge, Manchester Arena, London Bridge and a mosque in Finsbury Park in London killed 36 people.

Other founding members include Jo Berry, whose father Sir Anthony Berry was killed by the IRA in the Brighton bombing, Polly Brooks, who lost husband Dan Miller in the Bali bombing, and Travis Frain, who was hit by the car on Westminster Bridge.

Also involved are Yassin Hersi, who was injured in the Finsbury Park Mosque attack, Sajda Mughal, who was on the train next to the carriage containing the 7/7 bomber, and Becky Rigby, whose husband Lee Rigby was murdered in south London.

Charlotte Dixon-Sutcliffe, whose husband David was killed in the Brussels metro bombing, and Carolyn Worlledge, whose brother Nik Moore died in the bomb at the Admiral Duncan pub, have also joined the campaign group.

Survivors Against Terror said: “Our collective view is that terrorism can be defeated – but only if we pull together as a country to fight it more effectively.

“We will work to build a voice for survivors.”

The group aims to campaign for more effective policies to combat terror and identify gaps in support for victims and the bereaved, as well as help the public tackle hate speech and the terror threat.

The founders said: “As a group of survivors and family members we have had mixed experiences of support from the government and other service providers.

“In some cases this has been exemplary, in other cases families and survivors have been left with no support at all.

“We will be reaching out to other survivors and bereaved families to build a better picture of what is and isn’t working and will be talking to the government and other service providers about the gaps we identify.”

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Sajda Mughal, who survived the 7/7 bombing at King's Cross in 2005, is part of Survivors Against Terror.

The new group also called on social media companies to take stronger action and urged traditional media to treat survivors more respectfully.

Survivors Against Terror plans to survey a wide group of victims and go into schools to talk about the impact of hatred.

They added: “Terrorism is not a new phenomenon but it continues to cause huge pain and anguish.

“Our country has taken on and defeated bigger threats in the past, and we believe if we work together as a country and look after those bereaved or injured, we can and will defeat this as well.”

Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, welcomed the creation of the new group.

She said: “I have incredible admiration for the courage and dedication of everyone involved. Their ambition to bring positive change as a response to their horrific experiences is truly inspiring.

“We are committed to providing the best support for victims of terrorism, and that is why last year we set up the Victims of Terrorism Unit which will make sure that support, both in the UK and overseas, is comprehensive and made swiftly available to those who need it.