WASHINGTON, Sept. 29, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Relatively large numbers of Jordanians have been drawn to violent causes in Syria and Iraq, with some estimating the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan contributes more fighters per capita to ISIS and Al-Qaeda than any other country. Understanding the reasons why Jordanians are choosing to fight for violent extremist groups could go a long way toward helping to prevent future recruitment. A new research brief by the global organization Mercy Corps finds some rather surprising justifications behind the movement.
The most common justification for joining the war in Syria was to protect Sunni women and children. Nearly all those interviewed identified crimes committed by Shi'ites in Syria against Sunni women as the predominant rallying cause.
"Poverty was not a predominant driver among the foreign fighters we spoke with in Jordan," says Keith Proctor, Senior Policy Researcher at Mercy Corps and author of the brief. "Fighters come from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds. And we found no evidence that either the fighters or their families are being compensated by armed groups in Syria."
There was evidence, however, of well-paid recruiters who are compensated for getting Jordanians across the border into Syria. Recruiters often target charismatic and educated young people with broad social ties, as fighters rarely join the cause in isolation. Small social circles of friends will commonly sign up together. In addition, social media plays a powerful role in the recruitment effort by glamorizing the cause.
"Many fighters are not allowed to leave once they join the war," says Proctor. "But among those who have returned home, intra-Sunni fighting was mentioned as a key source of disillusionment. Some also indicated that life in Syria was less glamorous than expected."
Mercy Corps conducted assessments in three Jordanian communities that are hotbeds for extremist recruitment. In all, individual interviews and focus group discussions were held with 95 Jordanians connected to the conflict in Syria. These included friends and family members of 18 men who had left to fight, as well as interviews with five fighters who had returned to Jordan after fighting.
Read or download the full policy brief, "From Jordan to Jihad: The Lure of Syria's Violent Extremist Groups".
SOURCE Mercy Corps