Dounia Bouzar is a former head of the French Ministry of Justice Youth Protection Directorate of laïcité (secularism) and as such dealt with the constitutional and legal, but also socio-political aspects of religious affairs, specifically with minors at risk and young offenders.
In 2013, the French government tasked her and her team with conducting the first nationwide long-term survey on the radicalization process of French youth. This survey has major implications, resulting both in methodological innovation (e.g. designing actionable risk indicators), and in establishing local deradicalization teams throughout France. Teams trained as part of the effort handled the first thousand young individuals who were arrested at the border on their way to join the ranks of ISIS. Ms. Bouzar and her staff worked directly with many of these current and former jihadists in her deradicalization program.
In 2014, Ms. Bouzar was awarded the Legion of Honour (the highest French order of civil merit), and her book Comment sortir de l’emprise djihadiste ? (roughly translating to “Escaping the jihadist grip”) was awarded a prize for best essay of 2015 by L’Express. In 2016, she declined the renewal of her contract with the French government. However, her entity CPDSI (Centre de Prevention contre les Dérives Sectaires de l’islam) has continued to spearhead research on CVE, through collaboration with former jihadists and families of radicalized youth, Ms. Bouzar is the author or co-author of several award-winning books, one of which has been made into a film “Le ciel attendra” or “Heaven will wait”. She was named as a “European Hero” by Time Magazine in 2005.