x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

A voice for victims of terror

Woman set up charity after her mother died on one of the planes that hit the World Trade Centre on 9/11.

Carie Lemack's mother, Judy Larocque, was a passenger on American Airlines Flight 11, the first aircraft to hit the World Trade Center.
Carie Lemack's mother, Judy Larocque, was a passenger on American Airlines Flight 11, the first aircraft to hit the World Trade Center.

DUBAI // A woman who launched a charity to provide a voice to victims of terrorism after her mother died in the September 11 attacks has brought her campaign to the UAE - and says she has been delighted by the response.

Carie Lemack's mother, Judy Larocque, was a passenger on American Airlines Flight 11, the first aircraft to hit the World Trade Center.

Now, through her Global Survivors Network (GSN), Ms Lemack is trying to counter terrorist propaganda by highlighting stories of people who have lost loved ones in terror attacks.

"The charity has grown amazingly over the years and we now have thousands of members across six continents," the 36-year-old resident of Washington, DC, said.

"The response I've had from people in Dubai has been really positive. We created the group to try to prevent these kinds of tragedies happening in future."

Ms Lemack formed GSN with Ashraf al-Khaled, a Jordanian whose father and mother-in-law were among 27 people killed by a bomb at his wedding reception in Amman in November, 2005. The two met in September, 2008, at a United Nations symposium on supporting victims of terrorism and established the network a year later.

To promote the group's work, Ms Lemack helped produce the documentary Killing in the Name, which was screened at the Pavilion in Downtown Burj Khalifa last month.

The 39-minute film follows Mr al-Khaled as he meets and tries to persuade an Al Qa'eda recruiter, an Islamist militant and boys in a madrasa away from terrorism.

It was nominated for an Oscar this year in the documentary short category, but was beaten by Strangers No More, a study of life in a Tel Aviv school for children of migrant workers.

"When the nomination happened, things became pretty crazy, but it was great publicity for our cause and GSN," Ms Lemack said.

"The problem we are facing is that we rely on donations and investors. We don't want to preach to the converted. Our aim is to convince people who have been brainwashed into supporting terrorist groups, to show them the damage they cause to the lives of innocent people.

"Terrorist groups manipulate and twist Islam to give them the excuse to do these terrible things. But this has nothing to do with Islam."

Ms Lemack's message resonates with many who have heard about the documentary and GSN.

Ayad Ali, 30, a British Iraqi who works in recruitment in Dubai, said the documentary "is something I really want to see. It is important groups such as this get as much support as possible so that more people can understand that terrorism is wrong.

"The media always seem to give more attention to the terrorists, so this is a good way for people on the other side to put their views forward."

The film's producers are in talks to secure global distribution.

"People don't hear from survivors of acts of terrorism or those who speak out against it, especially from the point of view of Muslim survivors," said Tarane Ali Khan, a spokeswoman for the Pavilion.

nhanif@thenational.ae