At the onset of 2011, discontented Tunisians ejected former president Zine Al Abidine Ben Ali from his ruling seat, ending his 23 year-long strict one-party rule. The revolution, the first of many throughout North Africa and the Middle East, was sparked by Mohammad Bouazizi, a 26-year-old vegetable vendor who set himself on fire in protest of high unemployment, police corruption and political repression. Nearly three years later, the demands of Tunisian revolutionaries have still not been met. The largest demand of the uprising was jobs, particularly for young graduates.

Tunisian youth unemployment is at 17 percent, but for young adults with a university degrees, it is actually 30 percent. Seeing no response from the government that they had hoped to move to action, some Tunisian youth are demonstrating a disturbing trend of radicalization. Islamist groups recruiting fighters for conflicts in regional areas from Libya to Syria, promise those who join them food and compensation for their services. Growing numbers of young Tunisians are being recruited to Jihad groups.

For now, Jihadi violence in Tunisia is minimal. Two political assassinations and 30 members of the security forces were killed this year. There is however, growing concern that hundreds of young volunteers, possibly even several thousand of them, have been recruited through a widening network of Salafist mosques and then trained to fight in Syria, with the potential to return home to cause more trouble. Since the ousting ofZine el-Abidine Ben Ali, who had forcibly secularized the country, fundamentalist Salafi groups have sprouted in almost every town. The Salafist mosques provide open spaces for inquiring youth who are lured by charismatic preachers offering a stirring mix of camaraderie and talk of holy war and self-sacrifice in the name of God. They draw thousands of young men and women to their mosques, where they recruit volunteers for missionary work in Tunisia, but also for jihad.

Recruits, many of whom drop out of high school, are organized by a network of facilitators who supply cash, cars and safe houses. The travel through Libya, where they receive military training, and then make their way to Turkey, the main entry point for rebels entering Syria. Two teenage Tunisian boys who recently tried to join the fighting in Syria were told at the Libyan border to turn around, that “the fight is in Tunisia right now, we want to create an emirate there.” The boys were instructed to blow themselves up among a group of tourists at the tomb of Habib Bourguiba, the Tunisian post-independence leader, in the town of Monastir. One did, the other was caught before he could detonate the bomb attached to his body.

The Tunisian police and military forces are working hard to dismantle the Jihad groups forming inside their borders, but they are failing to address the issue at its roots. Would Tunisian youth be enticed by talk of Islamic Holy War if they were employed, contributing members of their society? With depressingly high unemployment rates and continued political repression many young Tunisians see little hope in their future. The Jihad recruitment is an outlet which provides a means of taking some control of their lives and a sense of purpose, no matter how extreme it may be.

– Paige Veidenheimer

Sources: New York Times
Photo: The Star

As of November 13, 2013, Boko Haram is now considered a terrorist group by the United States.

Boko Haram (Congregation of the People of Tradition for Proselytism and Jihad) is an Arabic term that means “Western education is sacrilege.” As a jihadist group, Boko Haram is considered to be one of the most violent movements in contemporary Islam, using aggressive brutality to achieve their end goal: to establish a “pure” Islamic state ruled by sharia law while also ending what the group considers to be westernization.

2. Boko Haram honors and promotes the concept of vengeance.

July 2009 brought Boko Haram some setbacks. A clash with Nigerian Government forces led to the deaths of hundreds of members of the jihadist group. Former leader Muhammad Yusuf, who created the group in 2001, was also captured. This capture led to Yusuf’s televised execution, as well as the deaths of his father-in-law and other sect members.

In response to this event, Boko Haram began a series of violent attacks in northeast Nigeria.

“We are responsible for the attacks in Maiduguri, Damaturu and Potiskum,” said Abul Qaqa, a supposed spokesman for Boko Haram. “We carried out the attacks to avenge the killings of our brothers by the security forces in 2009. We will continue to wage war against the Nigerian state until we abolish the secular system and establish an Islamic state.”

3. The death toll of Boko Haram is in the thousands.

Responsible for over 400 killings in 2011 alone, the group’s death toll raises daily. In fact, it said that Boko Haram is guilty of over 4,700 murders.

4. The group has strong ties to Al Qaeda and has even threatened the United States.

A January 2012 United Nations report cited regional officials as saying that “Boko Haram had established links with Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.” Apparently, some of the group’s “members from Nigeria and Chad had received training in Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb camps in Mali during the summer of 2011.”

Abubakar Shekau, the current leader (also known as an “emir”) of Boko Haram, did not denounce these ties.

“Don’t think that jihad stops with the death of imams, because imams are individuals,” Shekau says. “Don’t you see and think how many sheikhs and men were martyred, like Sheikh Abdullah Azzam [the co-founder of al Qaeda], Abu Musab al Zarqawi [the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq], Abu Omar al Baghdadi [the emir of al Qaeda’s Islamic State of Iraq], Osama bin Laden, Abu Yahya al Libi [a top al Qaeda leader], Abu Yusuf Muhammad bin Yusuf al Nigiri [the former emir of Boko Haram], and others ….”

“Do not think jihad is over,” Shekau said. “Rather jihad has just begun. O America, die with your fury.”

5. Among Boko Haram’s thousands of victims are innocent civilians, including women and children.

The group set fire to a Mamudo boarding school that ended up killing 42 students and teachers. They killed 200 people in the village of Baga. Bombings of churches, schools, and various other places have earned the group their terrorist affiliation.

The fate of Alhaji Muhammadu proves the aforementioned point as well. Muhammadu was fatally shot when walking home on February 9. His son explained that his father had told the police about a booby-trapped car in the neighborhood. Boko Haram found out.

Two masked men on a motorcycle shouted: “Just try that again. Now you are dead,” recalled the son, Sudaifu Muhammadu, a 27-year-old student at Bayero University, shuddering.

“They are all around,” Mr. Muhammadu said.

6. The country’s poverty levels seem to have a negative impact on the situation overall.

The Nigerian state, the typical enemy of the jihadist group, is largely due to the nation’s enduring poverty, according to analysts. Despite Nigeria’s oil wealth, 60 percent of the population lives on less than $1 a day. Since 2004, there has been an increase in national poverty, with about 75 percent of the population considered to be poor.

Reasons for attacks seemed quite clear to the Nigerians living with the fear of impending violence: injustice and misgovernance by political officials.

“The leaders are not concerned about the common man,” said Abdullahi Dantsabe, squatting in his open-air stall where he sells cooked yams.

Ado Ibrahim, a 22-year-old sugar cane vendor, was in agreement. He stated that another flare-up was “possible, as long as injustice persists.”

7. The local police are not as helpful as they were expected to be.

 National Geographic writer James Verini recalled a woman he met at a hospital in Kano this year.

“She’d been selling water in the bus station the day of the bombing. Her young daughter had been helping her,” Verini said. “When the car exploded, the girl vanished. In the darkness the woman called out for her. When her daughter didn’t respond, she began looking for a body. When she couldn’t find a body, she looked for an arm, a leg, clothing, a shoe, anything. She found nothing. She told the police what had happened, but they didn’t care and ordered her to leave. The woman’s husband went to every hospital in Kano, to no avail.”

The woman has not seen her daughter since that day.

– Samantha Davis
Sources: Reuters, International Business Times, Aljazeera, Counsel on Foreign Relations, New York Times, National Geographic


More than a year ago, Mohamed Merah, a French citizen of Algerian origins, shot seven people in three different assaults. Among the victims, three were military personnel shot during two different attacks in a two day span in the French city of Montauban, one was a teacher, and three were children, killed after Merah’s attack on a Jewish school in Toulouse.

Merah claimed to have an affiliation with Al-Qaeda, and was known by the French secret services for his extreme views and was considered a potential threat. Even though he had been under surveillance for some time, police forces were still unable to prevent Mohamed Merah’s attacks.

Since 9/11, radical Islam has become a major security concern for the U.S. and other countries. The World Wide Web and the ease of access to Islam extremists’ thoughts have played a major role in the spread of radical ideologies.

Recent discoveries at Merah’s older brother’s in-law’s house have shown that access to radical Islam propaganda is almost as easy as a simple click. In a hard disk belonging to Merah’s brother, a digital library composed of several thousands of texts was found. These texts are both a guide for newbie jihadist as well as a guide to salafi indoctrination.

The websites visited by the murderer show the role of the Web in the spread of the radicalization of Islam. The websites appear in the headlines of searches of key words such as “Sharia” and “Jihad.” They espouse a more radical Islam centered around a rigorous defense of the Jihad. Translated in many languages, these websites are capable of reaching a larger public and thereby pose a greater threat.

Internet surveillance has become a national security priority in countries all over the world. And even when sites are censored because they are deemed dangerous, they often reappear with a different name.

The Internet, by facilitating access to ideas worldwide, has been greatly beneficial to the public, who can now hope for more transparency and easier access to knowledge. Nevertheless, this facilitated access to ideas has also become the unfortunate tool of many terrorist groups, who use it for both recruitment, financial purposes and as a source for their propaganda.

To this day, no international standard has been established to regulate the content of the internet available to the public. Each country makes its own rules, and there is little to no regulation at an international level. The challenge now is to create an international standard in order to avoid abusive censorship and promote freedom of speech and the spread of ideas in a context of mutual respect.

– Lauren Yeh

Sources: Washington Institute, Islam Et Verite, The Independent, Huffington Post
Photo: AIM