Latifa Ibn Ziaten: "We must reach out to young people"

Winner of the Fondation Chirac prize that was awarded on November 19th, 2015 in Paris, Latifa Ibn Ziaten fights against the radicalisation of young people on a daily basis. We spoke to her about her association and its work.
Latifa Ibn Ziaten
Latifa Ibn Ziaten
As young people and women are often the first victims of crisis situations, we puts special emphasis on projects in health and education through its corporate philanthropy.
We have proudly supported the Fondation Chirac Prize for Conflict Prevention for three years.

Latifa Ibn Ziaten, can you tell us about your association?
"The Association Imad Ibn Ziaten pour la jeunesse et la paix was created following the assassination of my son by Mohamed Merah. Following this tragedy, some young people spoke of him as if he were a hero, or a martyr for Islam. My association endeavours to reach out to these young people. They are the cause of my suffering, but I must help them. Since then, I have gone into schools, I talk, I speak about education, love, republican values. It is very important because these days young people don’t have these ideas, unfortunately their parents just sit back and the child is left to their own devices."
What do you do on a daily basis?

"I hold a lot of seminars and conferences with teachers, and I visit various schools. I also talk with parents. They must look out for their children, at school, during their daily lives. Unfortunately, some parents are not up to it, they don’t have the means and they can be overwhelmed. The aim of the association now is to reach out to young people, but also to people of all ages. It is very important."

"Reaching out to people of all ages"

"I also talk in prisons. There is a lot of work to do there. The situation in prisons is very serious. The prisoners come out worse than when they went in. A prisoner is in prison to pay his debt. He must come out as a reformed man. This is not the case these days.
I am on the ground every day, from Monday to Friday. I go to schools, prisons, associations. I also travel within Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. I never turn down a request; I am ready to help anyone, because I don’t want another Merah. I live with this suffering and I wouldn’t wish it upon anybody. When you lose a son, you lose a little bit of yourself."

>>>Christine Albanel, Vice President of the Orange Foundation, awards the Chirac Foundation Prize to Latifa Ibn Ziaten.

Prize Foundation chirac Christine Albanel
Prize Foundation Chirac Latifa Ibn Ziaten
Prize Fondation Chirac Latifa Ibn Ziaten

How do you plan to use the Chirac Foundation prize to improve the situation?
"Firstly I would like to thank the Chirac Foundation, this prize has given me even more courage. The first problem is prisons. I want to improve the living conditions of the prisoners. One of them said to me one day, ’Madam, there are rats and cockroaches in my cell.’ I visited the cells and I took photos. It was very hard. We must reach out to them; it’s something which we are all obliged to do. We all make mistakes in our lives, no one is perfect.

We must implement mandatory training for the prisoners, whether to brush up on their skills or by offering an actual apprenticeship: plumber, carpenter, electrician, etc. Of course, we cannot ask that prisoners live in luxury, but we must ensure they have a minimum standard of living, as they are human beings. Without that, the prisoners will be left in the dark and there is an increased risk of radicalisation."

"Meeting others and respecting them, that is very important, that is what living together is about"

"The second problem is the disadvantaged neighbourhoods. Some people live there away from the rest of the French population. How can these ghettos exist in France? We cannot separate people. In all the towns that I have visited, there is separation in these neighbourhoods. Everything is there so that the people living there do not leave the neighbourhood. Meeting others and respecting them, that is very important, that is what living together is about. Diversity is very important."

"I was integrated into French society because of this diversity. This diversity must exist in neighbourhoods and schools. In some schools, the classes are made up of 95% students of North African origin. How do we expect these young people to progress? Some of them have many positive qualities; they are part of the future, tomorrow’s leading lights. We must reach out to them."


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