Author: WANA Institute and the Australian Embassy in Amman, 2017
Despite significant knowledge around the drivers of radicalisation, little is known about the motivations, influences and/or stressors in play when someone harbouring radical ideology decides to join an extremist group or use violence to express their ideological convictions. Building understanding around this pre-violence stage has largely been thwarted by the fact that the vast majority of fighters either remain in, or were killed in, theatre. The few who have returned are considered high-value security assets and their testimony is closely guarded and/or of questionable authenticity.
This research provides unique insight into the mindset, actions, and behaviours of five fighters from Ma’an and Zarqa who joined Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (formerly known as Jabhat Fateh al-Sham and before that as Al Nusra Front), covering both their pre-departure and operational phases. The evidence was gleaned through interviews conducted in 2017 with returnee fighters, their parents, spouses, siblings, extended family, friends, and teachers.
While there is no consistent ‘missing link’ that explains why some individuals decide to join a violent extremist group, there are important contextual factors and behavioural trends that may guide more effective interventions. These observations are set out in this report as a series of policy recommendations targeting government (both at the local and central levels), civil society organisations (CSOs), and the donors that support them.