Last month, a group of us who have been impacted by terrorist acts came together to launch a new group. We’re calling ourselves Survivors Against Terror and what we want to do is support grieving families and push back against hate speech in our society.
We haven’t got all the answers. We’re just ordinary people whose lives were shaken by the senseless acts of terrorists. We want to reach out and encourage dialogue that will stop violent extremists from creating division and hatred. If we can use our experience to bridge divides and build trust, then we can begin to make it harder for terrorist groups to recruit.
Nobody doubts that this is a big task. But the fight against Islamist extremists, including Daesh (so-called Islamic State), on the one hand and the extreme right on the other is something we must take on in the UK. Their perverted messaging is getting through to young people on social media and in community venues. We want to be out there too, intervening between these evil people and the vulnerable individuals they are trying to indoctrinate.
All of us in Survivors Against Terror have tragic and terrible stories to tell. My brother David was executed by Daesh in September 2014. A video of this barbaric act was put up on YouTube. These people thought that this kind of content could be used to scare people in the west and to also recruit some very sick minds.
What they did changed my life forever. David was a humanitarian worker trying to make a difference in some troubled parts of the world. He’d been to the Balkans, Sudan and the Middle East to help. He was no saint. Just a decent man who couldn’t sit back and watch others suffering. For that he paid with his life at the hands of Daesh.
When Daesh took David’s life, I decided that the rest of my life had to be about getting rid of the fear and discord these terrorists want to create in our midst. We owe it to the next generation to speak out
One of the other people involved in setting up Survivors Against Terror is Brendan Cox. His wife Jo was a hard-working MP who had also worked for Oxfam for many years. She cared deeply about what was happening in Syria and even chaired the all-party parliamentary group, Friends of Syria.
Her unrelenting work in the name of peace was tragically cut short when an extreme right-wing fanatic killed her. Her family was left devastated. Brendan now works tirelessly to stop this kind of hatred spreading in our cities and communities.
One of our youngest members is Travis Frain. He had been walking across Westminster Bridge texting a friend when he was hit by a vehicle. The driver had mounted the kerb deliberately in his 4x4 to slaughter as many people as possible before going on to stab a police officer to death.
Travis has talked about how he was “thrown almost like a rag doll” over the bonnet of the car. His life was changed forever. The attacker killed five people that afternoon including PC Keith Palmer. Yet again, he was somebody acting in the name of Daesh bringing carnage and unbearable grief to the lives of ordinary people.
We’d like the group to be a place where survivors can get the support they need from others who have gone through a similar experience. It’s incredibly traumatic to have your life turned upside down by terrorism. What we’re saying is that nobody should endure their pain and suffering alone. We’re here to put an arm around fellow survivors and guide them through their torment and grief.
Not all survivors will want to speak out. But for those who do, Survivors Against Terror will help them find their voice. When Daesh took David’s life, I decided that the rest of my life had to be about getting rid of the fear and discord these terrorists want to create in our midst. We owe it to the next generation to speak out and try to secure a future without bloodshed and murder on our streets.
Already Survivors Against Terror has brought together people who have endured the appalling acts of those who think murder is a legitimate means to an end. We want many more people to join our cause and share their experience – as several already have since our launch. Survivors, and indeed all of us, need to create an unstoppable wave of resistance against those who attempt to bomb and maim on our streets.
I will not live by anger and hate. That is the terrorist way. The group is made up of some truly inspirational people and together we will do our bit to stop terrorism in its tracks.
Mike Haines is the brother of Scottish aid worker David Haines, killed by Da’esh in 2014