Iraqi Children Return to School in Liberated Villages
Since the Islamic State group (IS) emerged in Iraq several years ago, the lives of thousands of civilians have been negatively affected by violence and extremism. When forces swept through the country in 2014, their largest conquest was the city of Mosul.

The invasion forced a large portion of the population to flee and the city became the group’s best claim to legitimacy as an Islamic caliphate. Realizing the significance of the city, taking back Mosul is now a major priority for both Iraqi and Western forces in the fight against IS.

In the two years that Mosul and its surrounding areas have been under the control of IS, thousands have been forced from their home and hundreds of Iraqi children have been denied access to education. Now, as forces advance on the IS stronghold in Mosul, Iraqi children are finally returning to school in liberated villages that neighbor the city.

Mosul is an ancient city with hundreds of years of culture and history, making it central to Iraqi identity. The city is diverse and made up of Sunnis, Shiites, Christians and Yazidis. Not only has the city’s historical and cultural significance been damaged by the presence of IS militants, but the lives of hundreds have been disrupted.

Eastern Mosul and its surrounding cities have been liberated by Iraqi forces and residents of the area are overjoyed to feel they have regained some sense of control in their lives and communities. Free from the grip of IS, people are free to use their cell phones, men are free to shave their beards, families aren’t consumed with the prospects of being separated from one another and children are free to return to school.

After IS invaded Awsaja, a town about 30 miles from Mosul, parents pulled their children out of school to protect them from the extremist ideologies that the curriculum turned to under militant control. Awsaja was reclaimed by Iraqi forces about two months ago and since, all 700 children in Awsaja have been re-enrolled in school. The small town is severely lacking in educational infrastructure and teaching faculty, but goals for the future of Awsaja revolve around building a successful educational program for all children.

Today, half of the world’s 65 million displaced people are under the age of 18, and only 36 percent of these youths have access to education. Without education, children are more likely to be denied economic and social opportunities which can stunt the development of a community as a whole. Considering these numbers and their implications, Awsaja’s fight to provide quality education for its children is a huge step in standing up to IS and the extremism it represents.

As Iraqi forces move closer and closer to taking back Mosul, more and more Iraqi children return to school.

Peyton Jacobsen

Photo: Flickr

Combatting ISISISIS recruits much of its membership in the states where it operates. With the increased debate on why this is an occurrence, providing aid to refugees is effective in combatting ISIS because it decreases the chances of them joining the faction.

In an interview with the Daily Beast’s Michael Weiss, Abu Khaled, an Islamic State defector, calls his organization “a welfare state” because it pays for housing and childcare for fighters and residents alike.

Khaled is alarmingly correct. A 2015 Quantum study found that 12% of surveyed ISIS and surrounding extremist group members joined their entities because of money. The report explains that the same militants who fight for their fortunes are from Syria and Iraq.

As monetary compensation is used as a tool to convert impoverished locals into extremists, humanitarian aid is effective in combating ISIS and other extremist groups. However, the U.N.’s budget for Syrian refugees is 65% short of what is required to provide adequate assistance.

Failing to give substantial support to those who need it most explains why many turn to ISIS. Out of all the people who stayed in Syria, 10 million of them have an insufficient food supply. Joining ISIS is a choice of survival when it is the only way to accommodate hunger.

When developed countries give aid to these countries’ refugees, it reduces the need to choose jihad over starvation. The financial factor of pursuing terrorism diminishes when food is on the plates of 10 million starving Syrians.

Appealing to the poor is not a new tactic of radicalism. The ETA, a Basque nationalist group, grew its membership among lower socioeconomic backgrounds.

While poverty is not the only source of extremism, policymakers widely accept it as a valid component. Even U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry acknowledges it as “a root cause of terrorism.” Humanitarian efforts by the U.N. are stagnant, but the United States is leading the world in giving to Syrian refugees, providing $419 million in additional aid.

Despite more funding being present, America alone cannot endure success in alleviating Syria’s poverty and combatting ISIS. Foreign policy expert Helen Milner of Princeton University writes that there is “support for the hypothesis that multilateral aid is preferred to bilateral.” Most respondents also classified multilateral aid as the most effective solution.

America has more in its budget than most countries, yet there is still a disparity between the how much the U.S. donates and how much it actually could donate to the Syrian crisis.

Middle Eastern refugees are incentivized to follow the cash flow of prosperity. Western nations can fill the void before ISIS and other extremist groups beat them to it.

Noah Levy

Photo: Flickr

The United States declared it carried out a series of airstrikes on the Libyan city of Sirte, an ISIS stronghold, at the request of the Libyan government in August 2016.

The strikes came after nearly two years of concentrated efforts by the U.S. and Libyan governments to remove ISIS from Sirte; a strategically important city located directly between two of Libya’s largest cities, Benghazi and Tripoli.

The erasure of ISIS’s presence from Sirte means the city’s residents will be able to enjoy a higher standard of living, increased access to food and fuel and control of their incomes. Reclaiming the city from ISIS also means that healthcare in Libya will be one step closer to returning to pre-2011 standards.

Regaining control of Sirte will allow the Libyan government and certain NGOs, such as Doctors Without Borders, to begin safely providing much-needed healthcare services to the city’s residents.

Healthcare providers in Libya will be able to distribute resources across the country more evenly as they are needed, especially between Benghazi and Tripoli.

On a more significant level, overcoming the ISIS presence in Libya will remove one of the larger issues that the country has had to contend with during its rebuilding process, which has been ongoing since the country experienced a wave of revolutionary action during the Arab Spring in 2011.

Currently, the country lacks a central government as numerous opposing factions emerged after the fall of the Gaddafi regime.

A U.N.-backed entity known as the Government of National Accord recently made the most significant strides in uniting the country. They will undoubtedly find the task easier with ISIS’s removal.

A successfully unified government would likely see the return of a functioning and well-equipped healthcare system; something that the country has been sorely lacking since 2011.

According to Doctors Without Borders, many hospitals have been forced to close in recent years due to lack of funds, lack of staff members and concerns about security.

A fully functioning government would be able to solve the coordination problems currently preventing the distribution of funds and supplies.

They would be also able to effectively provide secure environments for hospitals and healthcare providers to safely operate.

More funds, supplies and increased security would allow for the return of foreign-born healthcare workers, many of whom left in the wake of 2011 upheaval.

Will Clifft

Photo: Flickr

Genocide related to ISIS violence and funding gaps were the focus during the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations hearing on Dec. 9, 2015.

The subcommittee received testimony regarding why the plight faced by persecuted religious minorities, specifically Christians and Yezidis, in Syria and Iraq by ISIS should be defined as genocide by the U.S. State Department.

The U.S. has not formally declared the violence towards Christians and Yezidis as genocide. As a result Christians, Yezidis and other religious minorities have not been given priority when filing as refugees for resettlement with the U.S.

“The term genocide makes members of such groups more likely to receive the preferential treatment as bonafide refugees that they should receive under the U.N. Convention and protocols on the status of refugees,” Genocide Watch’s President Gregory H. Stanton said. “To which the U.S. is a state-party, and also under the refugee laws of the U.S.”

The inabilities to ensure humanitarian resources get to those in need as well as funding gaps in the 2015 Syria Regional Refugee & Resilience Plan were attributed to ISIS’s successful perpetration of violence against religious minorities in the region.

Yezidi Human Rights Organization-International Founder and Chairman Mirza Ismail testified that the humanitarian aid is necessary, but not sufficient.

“Much humanitarian aid distributed by the Kurdish Regional authorities and the Iraqi government never gets into the hands of those who need it, those for whom it was intended — due to skimming, corruption, and politics,” Ismail said.

Ismail stated that there are more than 40,000 impoverished Yezidi refugees suffering in Turkey and Syria, some of whom have been denied food, medicine and have been abused by the authorities in charge. Ismail also testified that there are Yezidi refugees who cannot get into U.N. refugee camps, and as a result are not certified as refugees.

Chairman Christopher Smith recalled testimony from Shelly Pitterman of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on Oct. 20, 2015 where the main trigger of flight from refugee camps or shelter was the humanitarian funding shortfall.

“In support of the Syrian Response Plan (SRP) and the Regional Refugee Resilience Plan (3RP) international donors pledged $3.68 billion,” Smith said. “However, according to the financial tracking service at the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Human Affairs only $1.17 billion of the $2.89 billion has been received by Dec. 7, 2015. That constitutes only about 41 percent of what was considered necessary by that agency.”

The most recent report from the UNHCR shows that the Syrian Response Plan has been funded $132 million or 43 percent, leaving a gap of $176 million from their requirement of $309 million; the Regional Refugee Resilience Plan has been funded $778 million or 58 percent, leaving a gap of $566 million from their requirement of $1.34 billion.

Stanton commended the members of congress that supported H.Con.Res 75, which recognizes the collective persecution of religious minorities as genocide. He also commended members of Congress that introduced House Resolution 447 (supporting the establishment of a Syrian war crimes tribunal to try ISIS, especially for its mass rape of women and girls) and Congressman Rohrabacher for introducing House Resolution 2014, which proposed that Christians and Yezidi’s should have priority when filing for refugee status with the U.S.

Summer Jackson

Sources: Foreign Affairs, 1, 2, UNHCR
Photo: Notey

Amid continual civil war in neighboring Syria and the threat of ISIS, the nation of Jordan has seen an influx of refugees fearing for their safety. Anywhere between 600,000 and 1.4 million refugees from Syria and Iraq have sought refuge in the neighboring country.

The Zaatari refugee camp is Jordan’s largest refugee camp and located just outside the capital of Amman. Nearly 82,000 refugees live in the camp and approximately half of the inhabitants are under 18 years old.

When one thinks of poverty and refugee aid, skateboarding is certainly not the first relief measure that comes to mind. But in December 2014, Jordan’s first skate park was opened in the center of the nation’s capital.

“We will be looking to work with NGOs to bring those refugees over to 7Hills in the foreseeable future so they can learn how to skate and find a bit of happiness,” says Philadelphia Skateboards founder Mohammed Zakaria.

The park, better known as “7Hills” was funded by a crowdsourcing campaign initiated by Zakaria and Make Life Skate Life, an international nonprofit organization that seeks to encourage skateboarding to underserved, poverty-stricken children. The $25,000 required to build the park was gathered in a matter of days and was constructed using an international volunteer workforce in less than three weeks.

With a self-proclaimed mission of aiding the “under-served refugee youth in Jordan,” the park encourages and provides an outlet for youth refugees in Jordan and aspiring Arab artists to express themselves and share their ideas. Awareness & Prevention Through Art (AptArt) is another organization that has helped support the park and ostensibly, the refugee youth culture that the park gathers.

AptArt hosts workshops on creating large scale public art for disadvantaged youth and refugees. The subject matter of the artwork focuses on healing and rehabilitation from regional trauma and conflict. The motivation for these efforts is to unite the youth affected by expressing and sharing common experiences.

The Collateral Repair Project (CPR) is a nonprofit that provides an additional outlet of rehabilitation for refugees. CPR sponsors and hosts weekly skateboard lessons for displaced youth interested in learning. They also work to provide free skateboards and safety equipment to anyone that wishes to learn but do not have money to purchase their own.

The fear of playing outside and being robbed of a normal childhood are tragic side effects of more conventional signs of poverty. What the 7Hills skatepark has done is to provide a place for refugee children and young adults to forget their fears and regain a sense of normalcy by sparking an interest in a growing communal activity.

“In Syria, I couldn’t go out and play because of the war, but in Amman, I can enjoy my time, stay out late and make new friends at the skatepark,” says Ahmed Rayen, a 9-year-old skateboard enthusiast.

Zakaria first began skating the streets of Amman in 2002, before skateboarding had become a commonly acceptable pastime in the country. He recalls early on receiving societal backlash and consternation. Not to be discouraged, Zakaria founded Philadelphia Skateboards in 2009 which was the first and currently the only Arabic skateboard company. In an effort to popularize the sport in the Arab world and abroad, the company has supported local up and coming Arab graphic artists by using their designs on the skateboard decks.

“We wanted the decks to have graphics that represent us in the Arab world in a way. So we naturally couldn’t work with non-Arab artists,” says Zakaria.

These efforts have certainly inspired a wave of Arab skateboarders as the company now sells in multiple Arabic countries including, Egypt, Tunisia, UAE and Lebanon. European ex-patriot skateboarders living in the Middle East have even begun to take notice of popularizing sales in Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands. Zakaria states that sales to Europe have begun to grow as increased publicity about Arab skating has sparked an international interest in the brand as well as the 7Hills skatepark and its charitable efforts towards refugee kids.

Zakaria and his company Philadelphia Skateboards have become synonymous with the evolving skate culture that is burgeoning in the Middle East and in Jordan in particular.

“Many of our skaters, and the new kids we hope to bring into the park, come from broken homes or refugee families. We want to give them a healthy, free, accessible resource to enjoy life. Creating a place where underserved refugee youth can have free access to skateboarding…It’s been tough, but it’s been great to see people pitching in from around the world.”

The Borgen Project

Sources: Mondoweiss, Make Life Skate Life, Al Jazeera, Jackson Allers, Huffington Post, 7 Iber
Photo: Mondoweiss

There has been a great deal of criticism lately in regards to the Obama Administration’s efforts and plan to combat ISIS. An article by The Hill says that the GOP even goes as far as to state, “President Obama doesn’t have a serious strategy to defeat ISIS.” One of the strategies by the Defense Department is to train Syrian rebels to fight the terrorist organization.

How many rebels have actually been trained? There are a variety of numbers floating around the Internet, but few of them are actually accurate. According to the Washington Post, less than 200 rebels had started training in May. This July, Nancy Pelosi expressed she was surprised that only 60 people had actually been trained since the project started in 2014.

The low numbers are only partially understood. It is important to make sure that the recruits may not be in any way connected to ISIS. General Martin. E. Dempsey says that to fight ISIS, the U.S. needs to recruit at least 12,000 people. If at this point the Defense Department has only recruited 6,000 people, and not all of those people can be trained, how is it that this program would be successful?

If the Defense Department is looking to recruit Syrians, perhaps it should look to the 9 million or so Syrian refugees. Out of these 9 million, a good portion is likely able and willing to help the United States fight ISIS. Or at least would be if the funding to aid them was not getting cut over time.

The UN has been making food aid cuts since December 2014, and the cuts are growing, according to the United Nations’ Website. The United Nations News Service says that “a severe lack in funding is forcing the United Nations,” to make these cuts. As one of the leaders of world policy, the United States could be leading the charge in assisting the refugee population. Or perhaps the U.S. could be providing the UN with the funding that it needs to help the people in need.

This population needs help from someone; and it is possible that as an impoverished group from war-torn country, they could be vulnerable to recruitment by terrorist organizations like ISIS. If Washington wants to stop ISIS it needs to make sure that the available human capital is attainable. Primarily by providing the at-risk people, including the refugees, with the food that they need to survive before another organization provides them with that assistance.

Pelosi is correct in being “surprised” by the number of people that have been trained and recruited because the United States should be doing a better job of preparing to combat ISIS.

But, it is not in fact surprising that the Defense Department is having trouble recruiting enough people from Syria. How does the United States expect to recruit Syrians to help the U.S., when the government is not doing enough to help the country’s refugees?

Clare Holtzman

Sources: The Hill, Reuters 1, Reuters 2, Syrian Refugees, UN News Centre, The Washington Post
Photo: New York Post

The International Organization for Migration has estimated that since January of 2014, over 3 million Iraqis have been displaced by ISIS militants and forced to relocate. In the past two months, over 276,000 have been forced to relocate out of fear or danger. Many of the refugees have chosen to abandon their homes and flee to the mountains in Northern Iraq to avoid the constant fear of attacks and violence from the Islamic State. Unfortunately, in addition to protection from violence, there is a desperate need for basic supplies such as food and water.

Amnesty International researcher, Donatella Rovera says, “The civilians trapped in the mountain area are not only at risk of being killed or abducted; they are also suffering from a lack of water access, food and medical care. We urge the international community to provide humanitarian assistance.”

In response to the conflict, UNICEF has worked to set up many transition camps in the Kurdistan region of Iraq. Baherka is one such camp that was formerly a concrete factory outside outside the town of Erbil. The makeshift facility currently accommodates approximately 3,000 refugees. In the camp, every family has access to a kitchen, shower, latrine and 150 liters of water per day.

Adding to the numerous fears and concerns, there is also a reluctance for some Iraqis to join the refugee camps. Many of the refugee camps are overcrowded and can present their own unique set of dangers such as violence, disease or abduction. Separation from family members is another serious concern. For these reasons, many of these families choose to take their chances in the remote mountains where their communities are smaller. Access to clean water is also scarce due to the rough, mountainous terrain.

“The plight of displaced people caught up in the fighting in Iraq is increasingly desperate and all parties to the conflict must do more to ensure their safety,” states Rovera.

Thankfully, there are nongovernmental organizations working towards providing aid to these displaced Iraqis. UNICEF’s Water, Sanitation & Hygiene (WASH) division has received funding from Germany’s KfW Development Bank and has been tasked with aiding 25 families living near the town of Dohuk in the mountains of Northern Iraq.

Fortunately, there are times when complex issues can be solved with ordinary and conventional methods. This has been the case thus far with the aforementioned Iraqi families. A tractor hitched to a 4,000 liter water tank has been providing water to over 62,000 people every day. Families fill up as many buckets and tin cans as they can carry and use the water for drinking in addition to bathing, washing and cooking.

However, funding needs are a constant reminder that this service is not permanent. Without access to clean water, Ghassan Madieh, the UNICEF WASH Specialist in Dohuk, states “There would be sewage in the streets… You will see people getting unchlorinated water. You will see less water quantity. It will have a negative impact on health, especially on children and the most vulnerable.”

The Borgen Project

Sources: BBC, Telegraph, UNICEF 1, UNICEF 2
Photo: International Business Times


Since the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) took root in 2012, Europe has experienced a strange phenomenon: European-raised citizens leaving to become Jihad fighters in the Middle East. According to the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence (ICSR), 3,000 European citizens have joined ISIS since 2012, with Belgium, Denmark, and Sweden producing the highest number of citizens per capita to join the Jihadist cause. In response to this, a variety of methods have sprung up in Europe in order to prevent European citizens from leaving to join ISIS, and to deal with fighters once they have returned home.

In many European countries, such as the United Kingdom and Belgium, suspected ISIS recruits and returned Jihad fighters are treated with scorn and sent to court (in February, 46 suspected jihadists went on trial in Belgium). In stark contrast to these approaches, Denmark has pioneered an approach known as the “Aarhus Model,” which works to reintegrate returned fighters into Danish society using a soft-handed approach which treats returned jihadists “more like rebellious teenagers […] than hostile soldiers beyond redemption.”

The Aarhus Model was pioneered in 2007 after the 7/7 London metro bombings produced alarm in Denmark about the threat of the “home-grown terrorist.” The need for a better approach to dealing with poor, immigrant communities also became evident following the backlash produced by the controversial Muhammad cartoons in 2006, which produced unprecedented tension in Danish society between native Danes and Muslims. The Copenhagen shootings this year on February 14 by a 22-year-old Palestinian-born Danish citizen also solidified concerns about the threat of homegrown terrorism in Denmark, and the need for effective methods to counter this threat.

Indeed, Denmark, a country which provides generous welfare entitlements for all of its citizens and residents (including immigrants), has produced the second highest number of Jihadist fighters in Europe, after Belgium. According to ICSR 2015’s Report, 27 per 1 million Danish citizen have gone to fight in Iraq and Syria, while 40 per 1 million Belgium citizen have also joined ISIS.

Many Danish citizens, according to Preben Bertelsen, a professor of psychology at the University of Aarhus, have expressed confusion over why Denmark has produced such a high percentage of Jihadist fighters, expressing sentiments like “Why do they hate Denmark so much when we have given them so many opportunities?” But, according to Jacob Bundsgaard, the mayor of Aarhus, “it is obviously in part because we have failed […] in making sure that these people are well integrated into Danish society.”

Recognizing that the need to join ISIS stems from feelings of exclusion in Danish society, the Aarhus model aims first and foremost at helping radicalized youth to feel included. This includes making sure that immigrant youths—many of whom live in the poorest neighborhoods in Denmark and may feel socially excluded from their other Danish peers—have a vast network of help that they can depend upon. Individual counseling is provided for people who intend to travel to Syria or Iraq, with mentors (many of whom are returned, deradicalized fighters themselves) assigned to specific cases. Parents of at-risk children are also required to take part in self-help groups, in order to produce a network of elders that can disillusion radical youth with the ISIS dream. For returned fighters, (so long as they are found innocent of any war crimes) individuals are also offered counseling and the chance to become mentors for radicalized Danish citizens intending to leave the country to fight.

According to one young man’s testimony of his experience with the Aarhus model, after he had become increasingly radicalized following a family vacation to Mecca, the police contacted his family and had him brought into the station. Instead of punishing him, however, he exclaimed that the police “offered him a cup of coffee” and told him they would be assigning him a mentor who better understood his frustrations than they did. The young man, whose name was Ahmed, was successfully dissuaded from joining ISIS, and has since graduated from a Danish University and gotten married.

In addition to Aarhus, Copenhagen, other Scandinavian countries, and the Netherlands have since either adopted the Aarhus Model, or have adopted models that are largely based on the Aarhus example. Just days after the Copenhagen shootings on February 20, President Barack Obama also held a conference entitled “The White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism,” in which Bundsgaard, the mayor of Aarhus, was invited to share insight into his city’s innovative approach to fighting terrorism.

While the months since the Copenhagen shootings have produced concern over the supposed success of the model, police commissioner Jørgen Illum, based in Aarhus, has claimed that now, more than ever, it is important to make efforts to include radicalized youths and returned fighters into Danish society. Doing so, according to proponents of the Aarhus Model, is the best way to help prevent immigrant teenagers, who live in the poorest and most marginalized segments of Danish society, from turning to ISIS to give themselves a sense of inclusion, and purpose.

Indeed, by many accounts, the Aarhus Model is not only an innovative approach to tackling jihadism, but a successful one that has produced encouraging downward trends in the number of Danish citizens leaving the country to fight.

While thirty Danish citizens traveled to Syria in 2013, only two have traveled to Syria in the past year, while only one traveled in 2015.

– Ana Powell

Sources: BBC, The Guardian, Newsweek, The Washington Institute
Photo: Newsweek


On June 2, 2015, Iraqi Prime Minister Heider Al-Abadi spoke to an international coalition of over 20 countries in Paris in a bid to refresh the coalition’s strategy on combating violent extremists such as the self-proclaimed Islamic State, or ISIS.

The Iraqi leader requested more foreign aid, specifically intelligence and weapons, and blamed Western nations for not doing enough to stop foreign fighters from joining ISIS.

The next day, at a United Nations forum discussing the role of the media in combating terrorism, U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Jeffrey Feltman said, “Groups like ISIS succeed because they offer young people opportunities to engage with their peers and provide a space where they can bond over their grievances, hopes and deeply held desire for a world that is just and fair.”

The fighting that has raged throughout Iraq has left many families desolute and has taken a tremendous toll on children. According to the UNICEF, violations against children has increased by 75% over the last year. This includes abduction and the recruitment of child soldiers.

Missing amidst the talks of military and media foreign aid strategies to combat ISIS is the lack of humanitarian aid investments for displaced Iraqis. U.N. officials warn that millions of Iraqis caught between ISIS and the Iraqi Army could be without food or shelter over the next six months unless $497 million is raised in emergency funds.

As if the current demands are not hard-pressing, on June 23, the World Health Organization has asked for an additional $60 million to prevent 77 healthcare clinics from shutting down. The lack of water and soaring temperatures have led to a rise in dehydration among displaced Iraqis. With desperation mounting, Iraqis are looking for alternatives to extremist groups to find support. However, these alternatives often do not exist.

The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) has shown that when the Iraqi government provides service provisions across the socioeconomic spectrum, there is a reduction in violent insurgency. According to the NBER, a 10% increase in labor-related spending generated a 15% to 20% decline in labor-intensive violence in Iraq. As the violence decreases, social and economic stability ensues.

Unfortunately, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, official development assistance to the poorest countries fell by 8% between 2013 and 2014, excluding debt relief nations where the figures are higher at 16%. Iraq oversaw a spike in violence over that same period of time.

Providing intelligence and weapons may help to slow down ISIS. However, continued foreign aid investments into social and economic programs in Iraq and Syria are needed to ultimately reduce global threats.

If the international community does not supply the necessary foreign aid to Iraq, if people are not fed and do not have their basic health needs met, they will have no choice but to turn to ISIS, a group ready to supply them with work and food. This outcome would be catastrophic for the Iraqi government as well as the United States and our allies.

Adnan Khalid

Sources: National Bureau of Economic Research 1, National Bureau of Economic Research 2, The Guardian, The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, UN 1, UN 2, UNICEF, Wall Street Journal
Photo: NY Post

Instability, lack of resources and political corruption are driving everyday people into the “security” of terrorist groups. Most people have a specific understanding of a certain classification of terrorists. These are people in the third world or corrupt countries clinging to radical ideas and concepts of violence and revolution. These individuals are often unable to participate politically in their countries and therefore turn to drastic means in order to have their opinions voiced, which eventually leads to violence.

However, many people are unaware of the influx of people in western countries that are continuing to join such organizations. These include affluent European and American men and women, seeking acceptance in radical terrorist organizations around the world.

In recent years, there has been a particular increase in European women joining terrorist organizations that are established in the Middle East, such as ISIS. What could possibly motivate someone from the western world to join such groups?

In the last year, there have been a number of instances in which Americans were found to be supporting ISIS, both financially and otherwise. While this in itself is frightening, the biggest concern here is that of national security, especially in the United States. What is it that draws people into the group?

What people want is a sense of identity and purpose. As is the case with terrorist recruits in developing nations, individuals in the United States and other Western nations join groups like ISIS as a means for significance and a political voice.

Issues of unemployment and economic insecurity contribute to these motives. As people feel the brunt of economic tensions, they blame the government and often feel helpless when it comes to making a difference politically. Thus, joining a radical group, whose name is seen throughout various modes of information and social media, seems to be a surefire way to be heard.

It is the struggle and disparity that draws people to radical means for change. As examples of Americans and Europeans showing interest in terrorist groups such as ISIS have shown, radicalization can happen under any type of government or societal structure, and in any country. To protect national and international security, and to prevent individuals from radicalizing and seeking a voice elsewhere, it seems that people need a voice that is going to be heard in their home country.

– Alexandrea Jacinto

Sources: CNN, BBC
Photo: The Dark Room