When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

x
Geopolitics

The Psychology Of What Drives Young People To Jihadism

Radical Islamists zero in on young people in the West who are lonely and disaffected by modern life.

The dark side of Western youth
The dark side of Western youth
Rinny Gremaud

GENEVA — They're 14 and 15, girls and boys, barely pubescent. They are neither misfits nor poor kids living in trailer parks. On the contrary, they are more often the sons and daughters of business executives, children of non-practicing Catholics, and children of non-practicing Muslims. They are often successful students, well integrated — in short, young people most of us would characterize as perfectly normal.

And yet, they left their European homes for Syria to fight under the banners of Ahrar ash-Sham, the al-Nusra Front or ISIS, leaving their non-radical parents in an abyss of doubt, guilt and hopelessness.

Over the past few weeks, spectacular stories about these kind of kids have been flooding Western media, raising a number of questions, chiefly: Why are young people who live in stable environments and have good future prospects choosing to risk their lives in a country they know nothing about and for a cause they knew little about just months ago?

To put the problem into some perspective, there are 3,000 people from Europe and the United States fighting with terrorists in Syria, according to a June 2014 report from the international strategic consultancy firm Soufan Group. One-third of them are French, 500 are from Britain, 400 are from Germany, and almost as many are from Belgium. Intelligence services estimate the number of people who have traveled from Switzerland to fight in Syria at 25.

Most of those recruits are aged between 18 and 29, again according to the Soufan Group, although the report describes "many instances of 15-17 year olds." French authorities believe that 25% of those who leave are converts and that 80% of them come from atheist families.

In an attempt to explain this trend — which, though troublesome, remains marginal — experts often cite the recruiting methods of these terrorist organizations, which are similar to brainwashing. Their communication strategy is modern, efficient and distributed via social networks. They showcase individual, sometimes violent, heroic acts, life in a united community, and the prospect of a radiant afterlife.

ISO a shared future

Keep reading... Show less
You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Stories from the best international journalists.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
Already a subscriber? Log in

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
Geopolitics

The Days After: What Would Happen If Putin Opts For A Tactical Nuclear Strike

The risk of the Kremlin launching a tactical nuclear weapon on Ukraine is small but not impossible. The Western response would itself set off a counter-response, which might contain or spiral to the worst-case scenario.

An anti-nuclear activist impersonates Vladimir Putin at a rally in Berlin.

Yves Bourdillon

-Analysis-

PARISVladimir Putin could “go nuclear” in Ukraine. Yes, this expression, which metaphorically means “taking the extreme, drastic action,” is now literally considered a possibility as well. Cornered and humiliated by a now plausible military defeat, experts say the Kremlin could launch a tactical nuclear bomb on a Ukrainian site in a desperate attempt to turn the tables.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

Sign up to our free daily newsletter.

In any case, this is what Putin — who put Russia's nuclear forces on alert just after the start of the invasion in late February — is aiming to achieve: to terrorize populations in Western countries to push their leaders to let go of Ukraine.

Keep reading... Show less

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Stories from the best international journalists.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
Already a subscriber? Log in
THE LATEST
FOCUS
TRENDING TOPICS

Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

Watch Video Show less
MOST READ