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Enhancing the Understanding of the Foreign Terrorist Fighters Phenomenon in Syria


Authors: Hamed el-Said & Richard Barrett

Date of Publication: July 2017

Journal / Publisher: United Nations Office of Counter Terrorism

Purpose of the study

Key questions 

Mobilisation to violence and demobilisation to violence, Role of Internet/Social Media



Analysis of post-hoc surveys of foreign fighters

Number of participants



Mobilisation to fight abroad

Key findings 

Potential FTF’s turn to the Internet to confirm and strengthen ideas, perceptions and narratives that were beginning to develop or already developed The Internet effectively reinforced a decision that had already been made, particularly when the process was also associated with friendship or network ties.  Only ~40% of the participants indicated the Internet was either fairly, very or extremely important in the decision to go to Syria.  In terms of risk assessment, the survey results indicated that few individuals go to Syria with any thought or intention of becoming a domestic terrorist on their return home.

Key recommendations 

National governments should deal with salient “push factors” identified by the study: education to economic opportunity; from marginalization to labour market discrimination; from stigmatization to labelling.

Reviewer's Comments

Characteristics of Foreign Terrorist Fighters (FTF), Motivations of FTF to go to Syria, Role of Internet, Motivations of FTF to leave terrorist organization/Syria.

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