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The ex-wife of a jihadist: “I will go where necessary to take away parental authority”

Madrid, Jan 14 (EFE) .- “I will go where necessary to take away my children’s parental authority.” With this phrase, Raquel Alonso summarizes, in an interview with Efe, her tireless fight to protect her children from a father who was convicted in 2014 for belonging to a terrorist gang and who tried to radicalize his first-born son. Six years ago, justice put an end to part of the suffering of Raquel Alonso, the author of the book “Married to the enemy” and founder of the Association against Extremist Radicalism and Indirect Victims (Acreavi), by condemning her then husband, Nabil Benazzou , to eight years in prison for a crime of terrorist integration as a member of a jihadist cell called Brigada Al Ándalus. A conviction upheld by the Supreme Court. After the complaint that he collected in his book, Alonso has begun an indefatigable fight to withdraw parental authority from her ex-husband, and although the first assault has not been completely won because a judge has considered that the only reason why he does not exercise his Father’s duties is for being in prison, he will not stop until he gets it, for her and for other people in his situation. It could only be withdrawn for his daughter, because the son is already of legal age. QUESTION: How do you feel after the sentence? ANSWER: It is difficult to assess it quickly, but we are clear that we will resort to it. I think I should have taken the minor’s interest more into account. In Spain the law does not contemplate the withdrawal of parental authority due to jihadism, so some measure would have to be taken in the face of this legal vacuum, such as the figure of abandonment, because for five years this man did not call or request visits for his children. Q: Why do you think that the judge collects in the sentence the letters where her children expressed their love for their father or the visits they made? A: It is simple. The letters are from 2014, when he was arrested. The girl was six years old. At that age you can’t tell him: your father is a terrorist who was going to kill himself. I was traumatized. It is very complex for minors to understand such a situation, because I did not even understand it as an adult. Until I had the file in my hands, eight months later, I did not know the magnitude of the case. If she wanted to go see her father, I would take her. I took her to a safe prison and she was always with me. Do you think I was wrong because I took my daughter to see her father in prison? Well, to this day I don’t know. Q: The sentence does not include the indoctrination that your ex-husband allegedly attempted with your children, or the evidence provided that is in the summary. Why? A: We don’t understand it. I cannot assess how a judge acts, although I believe in justice one hundred percent. In the summary appears the indoctrination of the major, because the man is the one who takes the weapon. For the woman there is another destiny in the jihad: her belly. Perhaps it has not been taken into account due to the lack of knowledge we have regarding terrorism. What must be emphasized is that he is a man who the Supreme Court considers a danger to national security. My children are not from national security? Am I not national security? Aren’t we all national security? How can you not be a danger to your children? When it comes out in a year and a half, he can restore the visitation measures again, And then what do I find myself with? What if this father wants to try again to indoctrinate his children? or worse, what if you want to take them? Q: Will you go all the way? A: Yes. First for my children, and then because we have to fight for our children. As adults we manage things differently, even if it hurts us, but minors are defenseless, and the interest of the minor must come first. Q: And if they finally don’t agree with you … A: Plan C will go to the highest instance. In the event that we do not succeed in the Provincial Court, we will have to continue to appeal until the end. I’m not going to stop because she’s my daughter. And not only for her, but because from the association that I have created I am seeing many unprotected minors. If I have the opportunity to help someone, I will, because it is a subject that can touch us all. Q: How many families that come to the association are in a similar situation to yours? A: Among Spanish women we have already reached around 60 percent, compared to 30–40 percent of those with some member of Arab origin. Q: Has your ex-husband’s family been in contact with you since he was in prison? A: No, never. Well at first when they arrested him, yeah. His sisters sent money, but that money was not destined to the alimony of my children, but to him. They had a relationship with me until he was convicted. So I wanted to break that bond because I had to protect my children. Q: Your ex-husband has a year and a half left in prison. What will happen when I get out of jail? A: I don’t know, the truth is that it worries me enormously. I hope that he no longer has parental authority and I can take other measures, because otherwise my youngest daughter would be totally exposed. I would have to tell him which school he goes to, where he sleeps, where he is … The youngest would be in danger, but the eldest as well. Q: What do you think should change in the Spanish justice system to protect indirect victims of terrorism? A: Many things should change; First, there should be an express recognition of our condition, because we are not considered victims of terrorism or gender violence even though we have suffered both. And then that those convicted of jihadist terrorism withdraw their parental authority. We have to get by alone. Channel the pain of our children, try to leave them with the least possible consequences and, also, move forward. An adult may manage it better, but I can assure you that in minors there are traumas and consequences that can last a lifetime. By Ana Pérez Navarro and Blanca Valdés Mañas (c) EFE Agency

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