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Georgian foreign fighter deaths in Syria and Iraq: what can they tell us about foreign fighter mobilization and recruitment?


Despite their small number, foreign fighters in jihadist groups from the country of Georgia fighting in Syria and Iraq have played a significant role in the formation and leadership of several militant organizations. This study utilizes a sample of 29 Georgian citizens who died in the Syrian and Iraqi conflicts to ascertain the overall dynamics that shape foreign fighter mobilization and recruitment in Georgia. Notably, the study finds that substantial percentages of the foreign fighters originally came from small, isolated rural villages in various regions of Georgia, had family or friendship ties to other foreign fighters prior to leaving for the Middle East, and spent time in a country outside Georgia before progressing onwards to Syria and Iraq. Close, in-person connections and similar experiences and demographics amongst the fighters in the sample provide strong evidence for the thesis that offline personal networks determine foreign fighter mobilization rather than any large-scale socio-economic factor or by “online radicalisation,” thus adding to broader debates concerning foreign fighter mobilization in the post-Soviet space and around the world.

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