Who We Are

Founded by a father whose son committed an act of terrorism, Parents for Peace is an alliance made up of families whose loved ones were recruited into extremism; former extremists; survivors of extremist violence; and others who support our mission. We aim to translate pain into a positive way forward, sharing our experiences to encourage people struggling with a loved one’s potential involvement in extremism to reach out and find help. Click here to see videos of some of our stories.

We are grateful for the supporters and advisors that help make our mission possible.

Founders

Melvin Bledsoe
Melvin’s family has lived in Memphis for generations, and he is proud of his hometown’s history and culture. He founded Blues City Tours to introduce that heritage to visitors to Memphis, and he has served as a guide to thousands of tourists, sharing insights on Blues music and more. Melvin comes from a family where many of his siblings and relatives served in the U.S. military. After his son Carlos was recruited by violent extremists and murdered a soldier in Arkansas, Melvin channeled his pain into advocacy. He has testified to Congress and been featured by an array of national media outlets, including The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and CNN.

 

Monica HolleyMonica Holley
A native of Memphis, Monica attended Stillman College in Alabama, majoring in Mass Communications and Marketing. She previously worked at The Dallas Morning News and is now Director of Business Development & Marketing at Blues City Tours. Monica is the sister of Carlos Bledsoe. She witnessed her younger brother’s descent into extremism and struggled to intervene before he committed an act of violence. She is the mother of two young boys, who can now only visit their uncle in jail.
Muhammad Abdullah –In MemoriamMuhammad Abdullah
Muhammad grew up in Memphis and marched with Dr. Martin Luther King for the rights of sanitation workers. He moved to Detroit to work for Dodge and in 1971 converted to Islam. He received a Bachelor’s in Political Science and a Masters in Social Justice from Marygrove College. After running several small businesses, he served as a Legislative Director and Legislative Supervisor for several members of the Michigan legislature. A father of seven, he tried to intervene when his relative Carlos Bledsoe became wrapped up in extremism. Through that experience, Muhammad learned the difficulty of intervening to counter extremism. Muhammad passed away in April, 2016. We are forever grateful for his contribution.

Parent Network

Julie Boada
Julie is a Native-American performance artist, a storyteller and a puppeteer. She uses art as a source of healing and reconciliation by telling stories about people that live on the fringe. She is a recipient of Minnesota State Arts Board grants for her creation “Hidden History” and has worked with L.A. Music Center, The Minnesota History Center, and The Fergus Falls Center for the Arts. Her son Troy was recruited by Al-Shabab militants and died in Somalia in 2009. Julie continues to wrestle with her son’s fatal choices. She urges parents to talk to at-risk children, warning them that their initial idealism can be exploited by extremists.
Deqa Hussen
A mother of eight, currently working for Voice of East African Women, Deqa has served the Minneapolis community as an advocate for victims of domestic abuse since 2004. As someone who devoted her life to helping prevent violence, Deqa was shocked when her son Abdirizak was arrested in 2015, charged with being part of a conspiracy to join ISIS. Even before her son’s arrest, Deqa was speaking out about the dangers of youth being recruited into violent extremism. In the months after his arrest, Abdirizak expressed remorse for his mistakes, first to his mother and then publicly in an interview on CBS’s60 Minute. Deqa is faithfully supporting him as he serves his prison sentence, grateful he is alive and encouraged by his new desire to warn other young people against taking this dangerous path.
Carole Mansfield
Carole found herself thrust into the media spotlight in 2013 when her granddaughter Nicole became the first American killed in Syria as part of the country’s on-going strife. Carole, who helped raise Nicole, saw her granddaughter become radicalized in Michigan but struggled to intervene. “She had a heart of gold, but she was weak-minded,” Carole explains. “I think she could have been brainwashed.” Carole’s unfulfilled mission is to bring back her granddaughter’s remains to the U.S. for burial. Carol is a mother of three, a grandmother, and a great-grandmother. She retired after working 22 years in a chain of stores in Michigan.
Monica Mansfield-Steelman
Like her mother Carole, Monica played a big role in the life of her niece Nicole. She remembers Nicole in her younger years as someone who always “stepped in to help the underdog,” and she thinks this desire to help those weaker and less fortunate may have been exploited by extremists who helped her travel to Syria. Monica hopes that more people who have lost loved ones can come together to support each other through Parents for Peace. Today, Monica takes care of Nicole’s young nephew and enjoys volunteering in the annual local Toys for Tots drive.
Abdirizak Bihi
Abdirizak is the Director of the Somali Education and Social Advocacy Center in Minneapolis, a grassroots initiative to empower the Somali-American community. He founded the organization in 2008 after his nephew Burhan suddenly dropped out of Minneapolis’s Roosevelt High School to join the terror group Al-Shabab in Somalia, dying in battle several months later. Abdirizak has testified to Congress, met with top law enforcement officials, and been profiled by the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, CNN, and NPR. He is a pioneer in community engagement efforts to guide young Americans away from extremism.
Pardeep Kaleka
Pardeep is the co-founder of Serve 2 Unite, an organization that empowers student leaders to build inclusive, nonviolent climates in their schools and communities. Pardeep co-founded the organization as a way to heal from the murder of his father, Satwant Singh Kaleka, the president of the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin who was gunned down by a white supremacist during an attack on the temple on August 5, 2012. A former Milwaukee Police Officer and high school teacher and current counselor for victims of trauma, Pardeep has become a powerful voice against hate crimes and violence. He is the father of four children.
Arno MichaelisArno Michaelis
Arno co-founded one of the largest racist skinhead organizations in America and was once the lead singer of the hate-metal band Centurion. Today he is a motivational speaker promoting tolerance and inter-racial understanding. A single parent, Arno has transformed his earlier hatred into a passion for coexistence. His book “My Life after Hate” describes this remarkable transformation, and his writing and speaking draws on his own journey to help protect young Americans from hateful ideologies. He is a contributor to the project “Serve 2 Unite” and has published widely, including in the Washington Post and Chicago Tribune.


Saliha Ben Ali

Saliha was devastated when in 2013 her 19-year son Sabri, the oldest of her three children, suddenly left their home in Belgium for Syria to join ISIS. She tried to convince him to return, but he died only 3 months later. Refusing to allow Sabri’s death to be in vain, she has become a powerful voice of education and prevention through her organization, SAVE Belgium.

Michelle Walrondnews-1
Michelle is the founder of NISA, the National Islamic Sisters Association. A grandmother and native of Philadelphia, she became a Muslim in the 1970s and has been dismayed to see the effects of extremist influences in various North American communities. The problem became personal when her own son fell under the sway of extremists in Ottawa and, in 2014, was even briefly arrested. She has spoken out against extremist ideology and is involved in various interfaith and anti-extremist initiatives.
Latifa Ibn ZiatenLatifa Ibn Ziaten
Latifa is the President of the Imad Association for Youth and Peace, a grassroots organization in France promoting inter-religious understanding and nurturing young leaders. The association is named after Latifa’s late son Imad, a French soldier who was murdered in 2012 by Muhammad Merah during an extended terror spree. Vowing to dedicate her life to peace between religions and peoples, Latifa works in housing projects, prisons, and schools to engage those at risk of falling into extremism. She is the author of the book “Mort Pour la France,” a testimonial about her son’s service, and appears regularly in the French media.

Senior Staff

Executive Director – Myriam Nadri

Program Coordinator – David Phillippi

Advisory Board

Ronald Schouten MD, JD
Dr. Schouten is the Director of the Law & Psychiatry Service of the Massachusetts General Hospital and Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. He has lectured and published extensively on topics such as on terrorism, workplace violence, and threat assessment. He has been a consultant to the FBI’s National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime, as well as a panelist and contributor at workshops sponsored by the National Institutes of Health and Department of Defense.

Anne-Laurence Halford
A clinical psychologist educated at the University of Nice, Anne-Laurence contributes to the regions effort to prevent and counter extremism through her work for the Association EntrAutres and the Alpes-Maritimes Prefecture. Her responsibilities include training and supervising frontline workers, facilitating groups for families who have experienced or are concerned about the radicalization of a relative, and running prevention workshops for students and their parents at local schools.

Souleymane Konate, PhD
Souley is a ResearchFellow at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health. He previously taught mathematics at the College of the Holy Cross and contributed to radiological imaging projects at UMass Medical School and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. He now brings this technical expertise and data science background to the Chan School’s ongoing work of evaluating programs aimed at countering ideologically motivated violence.

 

Marik Fetouh
Marik Fetouh is the Deputy Mayor of Bordeaux, France. Educated in public health and law, Fetouh has dedicated his career as a public servant to addressing issues like diversity, equality, and discrimination. He is now responsible for overseeing the city’s Centre for Action and Prevention Against Radicalization of Individuals (CAPRI).

 

Herman Deparice-Okomba, PhD
Dr. Deparice-Okomba is Executive Director of the Centre for the Prevention of Radicalization Leading to Violence (CPRLV) in Montreal. A political scientist and recognized expert in intercultural relations, radicalization, terrorism, discrimination, and community policing, he was responsible for social issues for ten years with the Montreal police service. He is also a lecturer on terrorism and emergency management at several universities.

 

Tahar Ben Jelloun
A native of Morocco, Ben Jelloun’s illustrious career as a writer of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction spans five decades. He was winner of the Prix Goncourt in 1987 and the International Dublin Literary Award in 2005, and in 2008 was made an officer of the Legion of Honor by French President Nicolas Sarkozy. His work has addressed a range of issues including gender, racism, religion, and the immigrant experience. His most recent book is titled Le Terrorisme Explique a nos Enfantes (Terrorism Explained to our Children).

Supporters and Membership Organizations