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Many of the young recruits who travel to Syria or Iraq to join the ranks of the Islamic State (IS) group – also known as ISIS, ISIL or Dash– have received some education but are frustrated by the lack of opportunities in their home regions, a new World Bank study found.
The report, entitled “Economic and Social Inclusion to Prevent Violent Extremism”, found that 68 percent of those who joined the IS group between 2013 and 2014 claimed to have gone to the equivalent of a high school or university, with more than 25 percent having received at least some university-level schooling. Less than 15 percent of the foreign recruits had little or no education.
The study focused on the “basic socio-economic information” provided by 3,803 foreign recruits. The data was collected by the terrorist organisation itself and leaked to German intelligence services in March 2016. The World Bank then compared the leaked data to broader demographic, geographic and economic information to identify the factors associated with radicalisation.
While the study determined that poverty was not necessarily a risk factor, it found that educated men with few employment opportunities in their home countries were prime candidates for radicalisation.
“[W]e find that the factors most strongly associated with foreign individuals’ joining Daesh have to do with a lack of economic and social inclusion in their country of residence. Promoting greater inclusion, therefore, could not only bring down the level of violent extremism, but it could improve economic performance,” the report said.
But the report also cautioned that it was possible recruits had “overestimated” their education levels.
From unemployed to suicide bomber
“Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Morocco, Turkey and Egypt are the top five countries supplying recruits to Daesh,” the World Bank said, using an Arabic acronym for the group.
“Among the non-Muslim majority countries, Russia, France and Germany supply the largest number of Daesh’s foreign workforce.”
In addition to determining their education levels, IS group recruiters questioned jihadist candidates on their marital status, previous jihadist experience, knowledge of sharia law and the roles they were seeking to play within the IS organisation.
Foreign recruits with little or no education usually asked for combat roles, the study found.
Educated IS group recruits were likely to request administrative roles but also to ask for suicide missions. In contrast, those with the highest levels of religious training were the least likely to seek suicide missions.
But it was recruits who reported being unemployed or who had served in the military that were “most prone to choosing ‘suicide fighter’ as their preferred option”, the World Bank said.