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19 Mar

Post-Daesh and Still Desperate

Despite Daesh’s military defeat, many of the drivers that encouraged individuals to join the violent extremist group have not been addressed. According to a recent West Asia-North Africa (WANA) Institute report, violent extremist groups are adjusting their recruitment techniques accordingly.

While most Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism (P/CVE) efforts have focused on the symptoms of radicalisation, few have tried to address the root grievances that encourage vulnerable and marginalised individuals to turn to violent extremism.

Socio-economic frustrations such as price hikes, unemployment, nepotism, government inefficiencies or a lack of political representation alone are not enough to encourage violent extremism. They can however push people to search for alternatives to the status quo. Since violent extremist groups offer a new worldview and purpose, they can be seen as an opportunity.

Price Hikes and Austerity Measures in Jordan

The price hikes and austerity measures that were introduced in Jordan in February 2018 have reinforced an ongoing resentment towards the government. Though initial protests were small, the WANA study suggest that a quiet majority of the population is close to breaking point as a result of the increased living costs, high unemployment rates, and economic stagnation.

Such conditions contribute to drivers of violent extremism and can help explain why Jordan has produced one of the highest numbers of foreign fighters per capita in the past. They also indicate why marginalised Jordanians might be tempted to look to such groups for support again in the future if their grievances are not addressed.

Lebanon: Fueling Group Rivalries

Lebanon faces many similar economic and social problems to Jordan: unemployment, lack of opportunities, corruption, and a large influx of refugees. However, the responses to such problems are different due to Lebanon’s proximity to Syria and the presence of Hezbollah.

Lebanon’s outdated confessional system and lack of a strong centralised government have led various groups and neighbourhoods to informally organise and reinforce their own security. Perceptions of nepotism and a lack of transparency can further fuel resentment and rivalry between such groups. Violent extremist groups are capitalising on this and trying to further weaken national loyalties for their own extremist gains.

Need for a Strong National Strategy in Tunisia

After the removal of the Ben Ali leadership, Tunisia made substantial steps towards democratic processes with relatively little bloodshed. However, more than seven years after the start of the Arab Spring, post-revolution expectations have rarely been met and many Tunisians are still facing unemployment and barriers to civic involvement and political freedom. As a result, some have turned to other groups in search for solutions.

Attempts by the state to respond to Tunisia’s problems with violent extremism are ongoing. Yet there has been little national strategy beyond traditional state-centric security policies involving weapons seizures, arrests, and operations to disrupt local extremist groups.

Focus on Human Security Measures

Communities that feel marginalised from the government tend to rely primarily on themselves or informal support groups. This can increase social divides along sectarian, tribal, or ethnic lines, and weaken a sense of national identity or pride.

These conditions contribute to frustrations that are felt across a wide range of groups. The WANA report calls for P/CVE efforts to be reconceptualised within a human security paradigm to increase the resilience of marginalised groups and help communities resist the appeals of violent extremism in the future.

With current socio-economic and political grievances left unchecked, there is a real possibility for new extremist groups to market themselves as the solution to marginalised individuals’ grievances. The youth populations in Jordan, Lebanon, Tunisia, and the region more broadly thus need support that goes beyond militaristic state-centric security measures.

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