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Examining Psychological Drivers of Radicalisation in Jordan

Focus Area
Human Security
Dr Erica Harper
02 May 2017

Since the start of the Syrian conflict in 2011, it is estimated that over 35,000 foreign fighters have joined Sunni militant groups, such as Daesh and al-Qaeda in Iraq and Syria. The threat posed by such groups — both inside conflict zones and in countries of origin — has focused attention on the drivers that render individuals vulnerable to recruitment, as well as strategies for bolstering resilience to indoctrination, and rehabilitating those who have defected and returned.

To date, most analysis has focused on the contextual, religious, ideological, and socio-economic push and pull factors that drive radicalisation. Less attention has been directed to how governments and development organisations might respond to the psychological drivers of radicalisation. This report aims to fill this gap by examining the relations between individual psychology, group affiliation, and the socio-economic context in Jordan.

The report discusses three stages an individual goes through before engaging in violent extremist behaviour. The research finds that psychological dynamics tend to influence four of the driver sets that explain the process of radicalisation into violent extremism: social identity, religious ideology, personal status, and social injustice. The report concludes with a series of recommendations on how to incorporate psychological dimensions of radicalisation into broader response strategies.

This report is a collaborative effort. It draws upon research conducted by the West Asia-North Africa (WANA) Institute in radicalisation hotbeds targeting youth and refugees in 2016. It also draws upon primary research data collected by Dr Anne Speckhard in Jordan in November 2016.

This publication is generously supported with funds on behalf of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands.

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