The Empty Room

Jasna Krajinovic

Belgium, France 2016, 58 min.


Spoken language: Arabic, French

Subtitles: English

Dutch premiere

Festival year: 2017

A remarkable portrait of Saliha, whose son died after leaving Belgium to take up arms in Syria. Now his mother is committed to preventing more boys from walking that same path.


In August 2013, Saliha's 19-year-old son Sabri decided overnight to leave his parental home to join ISIS in Syria. His fight was short; three months later, he lost his life. He left his parents, brother, and sister in despair. The only thing that is left of him is an empty bedroom.

In order to cope with the sorrow of this loss, Saliha and her husband sought solace with other parents who share the same fate. Together, they try to find answers to why their children decided to break all family ties and pursue jihad. Saliha wants to prevent more young people from falling into the same trap and has committed herself to fight the jihadi networks. She also fights the ostracism that she and other remaining parents are subjected to. We see how she engages in conversation with young people, members of parliament, people in similar situations, and her own family. The filmmakers use this to sketch a portrait of a brave woman trying to confront a complex problem.

Together with other parents, Saliha Ben Ali tries to understand the process of radicalization and to warn young people to recognise it and not fall for it. She also helps the investigation into the jihadist networks that recruit young people. Saliha Ben Ali will be present at the Movies that Matter Festival as one of the A Matter of ACT activists. Read more about her and her cause here.

Text: Dirk van der Straaten

Official website:



Dérives asbi


Talkshows & debates

The Empty Room: Q&A with activist Saliha Ben Ali

Saturday, March 25, 2017 - 15:15

Q&A with activist Saliha Ben Ali led by moderator Alwin Helmink.

The Empty Room: Q&A with activist Saliha Ben Ali

Sunday, March 26, 2017 - 18:15

Q&A with activist Saliha Ben Ali and Hatice Durmaz led by moderator Doutje Lettinga (Amnesty International).

The Empty Room: Q&A with activist Saliha Ben Ali and ICMP director Kathryne Bomberger

Wednesday, March 29, 2017 - 17:00

Chris Keulemans talks with Saliha Ben Ali, director Jasna Krajinovic and ICMP director general Kathryne Bomberger about radicalization and missing persons.