Scandinavia’s Daughters in the Syrian Civil War: What can we Learn from their Family Members’ Lived Experiences?


  • Andrea Aasgaard Research Affiliate, Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Lund University


Violent Islamist Extremism, Radicalization, Family, Foreign Fighters, Women


The phenomenon of Scandinavians joining Salafi-jihadi groups in the Syrian civil war is high on the political agendas of Scandinavian countries. To counter the phenomenon, authorities are increasingly focused on the inclusivity of families in efforts to counter violent extremism. However, research on the topic is limited. This article seeks to remedy this, by investigating the insights that can be gained from the lived experiences of relatives of three Scandinavian women who have joined Syrian Salafi-jihadi groups, primarily the Islamic State, based on ethnographic fieldwork. Through a narrative analysis of family members’ stories, this article critically discusses two different ways that family members’ lived experiences are used within the field of violent extremism. Firstly, media and researchers use the lived experiences of family members to explain why European Muslims join Salafi-Jihadi groups. Secondly, political initiatives increasingly emphasise that families should be involved in efforts to stop young men and women from becoming foreign fighters. This article employs these insights to discuss how the narratives of family members can be used to understand why people become foreign fighters, and to consider the role of the family in countering violent extremism efforts.

Author Biography

Andrea Aasgaard, Research Affiliate, Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Lund University

Email:, Twitter: @AndreaAasgaard; Postal address: CO/Tina Robertsson, Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Lund University, Box 201, SE-221 00, Lund, Sweden.


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