washingtonpost.com  > World > Europe > Western Europe > Netherlands
Page 2 of 2  < Back  

From Civic Activist To Alleged Terrorist

Teachers reported problems within the Bouyeri family, Meijer said. One of the sisters rebelled against the strict rules of her parents. This is not unusual, he added. The education that Moroccan youngsters receive in Dutch schools often does not fit comfortably with what they learn at home.

Meijer said political leaders have failed to provide jobs and social programs to help the second generation of Muslims find a place in Dutch society. "The word everyone uses is integration, but if you don't put any money into it, it's only a word," he said. "No one's really dealing with the problem."

A mourner cries while attending a demonstration this month in Amsterdam in honor of van Gogh, who made a film critical of Islam's treatment of women. (Fred Ernst -- AP)

Religious Beliefs Deepen

While studying accounting at a polytechnic, Bouyeri spent a lot of time hanging out on the streets of Slotervaart. At some point, friends told the NRC-Handelsblad newspaper, he was arrested and imprisoned for seven months for a crime related to violence. The Dutch Justice Department is searching for a record of the conviction, which may have been expunged under the Netherlands' strict privacy rules, a spokesman said.

Some friends say they believe Bouyeri began to become more devout during his time in prison. Others say the death of his mother from breast cancer played a role. He returned to the neighborhood, reenrolled in school to study social work and started doing volunteer work at the Eigenwijks community center.

Ietje de Wilde, a community worker at Eigenwijks, recalled Bouyeri organizing a political meeting at which local politicians addressed 60 to 70 young people in February 2002. Many youths said they felt isolated from people outside the Moroccan community. Bouyeri later expressed pride over how the session had gone. "It became obvious that young people do have something to say about politics, especially when it involves their own neighborhood," he wrote in "Over the Field," the center's monthly newsletter.

Later, Bouyeri organized a neighborhood cleanup campaign and a soccer tournament in which youths played against police officers. He also devised an ambitious plan for a new youth center. He visited parliament and the Amsterdam city council to petition for funding, but with little success.

At the same time, his religious beliefs were deepening. He stopped wearing jeans and sneakers and started dressing in a flowing jelabiya and skullcap. He objected when the community center served beer at functions, and he discouraged women from attending the events he organized.

These demands were unacceptable to the community center's staff. Eventually, Bouyeri stopped going there. Soon after, he moved out of the neighborhood and into central Amsterdam. "We parted by mutual consent," Dick Glastra van Loon, the center's director, recalled in a statement posted on its Web site.

Bouyeri's writings for "Over the Field" reflected his evolution. The first articles advocated tolerance and mutual respect. "Treat another as you would be treated yourself," he said.

But by April 2003, his writing had become far more abstract and stilted. In a piece titled "Islam and Integration," he wrote that devotion to Islam was the ultimate ideal -- "more important than all old racial, political, national, ideological and material matters."

Contacts With a Militant

When Bouyeri left the neighborhood, he lost touch with many of his old friends. He dropped out of school and started collecting unemployment benefits. He also began hanging out with a handful of fellow young Muslims, Dutch officials say, holding prayer meetings at his apartment under the tutelage of the Syrian militant Abu Khatib, whose real name is Redouan Issar.

Dutch intelligence began watching the dozen or so young men who clustered around the Syrian about two years ago, and eventually dubbed them the "Hofstad network," according to van Steen, the intelligence spokesman. Abu Khatib, who is in his forties, has since disappeared, and Dutch police have issued an international warrant for his arrest.

Bouyeri was picked up and questioned last year when police first cracked down on the Hofstad network, but he was considered a peripheral figure and released.

"Up until the attack on van Gogh, the intelligence services had no information" that indicated that Bouyeri was preparing a violent action, the Dutch interior and justice ministries said in a joint letter to parliament.

Still, as time went on, his role appeared to grow. Dutch officials have confirmed that a Volkswagen Golf registered in Bouyeri's name was used by three militants who traveled to Portugal last June during the European championship soccer tournament. They were deported back to the Netherlands by Portuguese police as part of a security crackdown surrounding the games.

Van Steen emphasized that while all the leads and foreign connections were intriguing, they need further examination. In any event, he said, whatever the international links, it is clear that the plot against van Gogh, a little-known figure outside the Netherlands, originated here.

In the three days before the slaying, Bouyeri dispatched about 100 messages to a Dutch-Moroccan Internet site defending Islam and blasting the American campaign in Iraq, according to Dutch Radio 1 News. In a message he sent early on Tuesday morning, Nov. 2, he called the interim Iraqi prime minister, Ayad Allawi, "a fat pig" and contrasted the "men of courage" fighting alongside the Iraqi insurgents to the U.S.-led forces.

Eight hours later came the van Gogh killing.

"Something must have snapped," said Ietje de Wilde. "We were shocked. This was not the person we knew."

"This is then my final word," Bouyeri wrote in a note he carried in his pocket. "Shredded by bullets, soaked in blood . . . just as I had hoped."

Special correspondents Juliette Vasterman and Misja Pekel contributed to this report.

< Back  1 2

© 2004 The Washington Post Company