Suburban Bliss or Disillusionment - Why Do Terrorists Quit?
Keywords:Desistance, Disengagement, Deradicalization, Terrorism, Extremism, Islamic State, Life Course theory, Narratives
This study explores the explanatory value of two theories of desistance – the cessation of criminal behavior – in explaining why 27 individuals left the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq (ISIS). The article focuses specifically on jihadists that turned away from ISIS after March 2011, asking why individuals desist from ISIS and choose to leave the caliphate. A dataset of 27 narratives of desistance was analysed to answer the question to what extent desistance from ISIS by jihadists can be explained by the Laub & Sampson’s life course theory and by Altier, Thorogughood & Horgan’s model of push and pull factors. The primary pathways for desistance are coded according to the two theories. The results show that of the 27 individuals, the majority desisted from the caliphate because of their perception of the excessive use of force by ISIS and their inability to cope with the effects. A minority desisted because of their perception of alternative options outside the terrorist group or because of important life events that happened ‘at home’. Thus, the article concludes that the push and pull factors model is valid in the explanation of desistance from the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq whereas life course theory does not hold explanatory value
Altier, M. B., Thoroughgood, C. N., & Horgan, J. G. (2014). Turning away from terrorism: Lessons from psychology, sociology, and criminology. Journal of Peace Research, 51, 647-661.
Back, M. (2015, 26 May). Hoe ‘jihadist’ Jejoen naar Syrië vertrok, heimwee kreeg en werd opgehaald. Retrieved on 26 July 2016, from http://www.nrc.nl/nieuws/2015/05/26/hoe-jihadist-jejoen-bontinck-naar-syrie-vertrok-heimwee-kreeg-en-door-zijn-vader-werd-opgehaald
Barrelle, K. (2015). Pro-integration: disengagement from and life after extremism. Behavioral Sciences of Terrorism and Political Aggression, 7, 129-142. doi:10.1080/19434472.2014.988165
Bakker, E. (2006). Jihadi terrorists in Europe. Clingendael – The Hague. Cable News Network (2014, 18 February). ISIS Defector Vows to Take Down Group. Retrieved on 20 July 2016, from http://edition.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/1402/18/wolf.02.html
Callimachi, R. (2016, 29 March). How ISIS Built the Machinery of Terror Under Europe’s Gaze. Retrieved on 11 July 2016, from http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/29/world/europe/isis-attacks-paris-brussels.html
Clarke-Billings, L. (2015, 15 oktober). British mother Shukee Begum in Syria: 'Isil is not my cup of tea’. Retrieved on 20 July 2016, from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/islamic-state/11933433/British-mother-Shukee-Begum-in-Syria-Isil-is-not-my-cup-of-tea.html
Dalgaard-Nielsen, A. (2013). Promoting Exit from Violent Extremism: Themes and Approaches. Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, 36, 99-115. doi:10.1080/1057610x.2013.747073
Damon, A., & Tuysuz, G. (2014, 7 October). How she went from a schoolteacher to an ISIS member. Retrieved op 26 July 2016, from http://edition.cnn.com/2014/10/06/world/meast/isis-female-fighter/
Entenmann, E., Heide, L. van der, Weggemans, D., & Dorsey, J. (2015). Rehabilitation of Foreign Fighters? Relevance, Challenges and Opportunities for the Criminal Justice Sector. The International Centre for Counter-Terrorism – The Hague. doi: 10.19165/2015.2.05
Farrington, D.P. (1986). Age and Crime. Chicago: Chicago University Press.
Fink, N.C. & Hearne, E. (2008). Beyond Terrorism: Deradicalization and Disengagement from Violent Extremism. International Peace Institute.
Garfinkel, R. (2007). Personal Transformations: Moving from Violence to Peace. United States Institute of Peace.
Ginkel, B. van & Entenmann, E. (2016). The Foreign Fighters Phenomenon in the European Union:Profiles, Threats & Policies. The International Centre for Counter-Terrorism – The Hague. doi: 10.19165/2016.1.02
Giordano, P.C., Cernkovich, S.A. & Rudolph, J.L. (2002). Gender, Crime and Desistance: Toward a Theory of Cognitive Transformation. Bowling Green State University.
Halabi, A. (2014, 31 July). Islamic State defector says Saudi Arabia next stop for group. Retrieved on 26 July 2016, van http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/security/2014/07/syria-opposition-is-saudi- arabia.html#
Heide, B. von der, & Baars, C. (2015, 16 July). Ein sommer in Dschihad. Retrieved on 26 July 2016, from http://daserste.ndr.de/panorama/archiv/2015/Ein-Sommer-im- Dschihad,dschihad178.html
Hellmuth, D. (2016). Of Alienation Association, and Adventure: Why German Fighters Join ISIL. JD Journal for Deradicalization, 6 (Spring 2016), 24-50.
Horgan, J. (2009a). Conclusions. In J. Horgan (Red.), Walking Away from Terrorism: Accounts of disengagement from radical and extremist movements (pp. 139-162). Abingdon: Routledge.
Horgan, J. (2009b). Individual disengagement: a psychological analysis. In T. Bjørgo & J.
Horgan (Red.), Leaving Terrorism Behind. Individual and collective disengagement (pp. 17-29). Abingdon: Routledge.
Horgan, J. (2014). The psychology of terrorism. Abingdon: Routledge.
Hwang, C. J. (2015). The Disengagement of Indonesian Jihadists: Understanding the Pathways. Terrorism and Political Violence, 1-19. doi:10.1080/09546553.2015.1034855
Laub, J. H., & Sampson, R. J. (2001). Understanding Desistance from Crime. Crime and Justice, 28, 1-69.
Maruna, S. (1999). Desistance and Development: the Psychological Process of ‘Going Straight’. British Society of Criminology.
Mironova, V., Mhidi, A., & Whitt, S. (2015, 10 August). The Jihadi Who Came in From the Cold. Retrieved on 20 July 2016, from http://foreignpolicy.com/2015/08/10/the-jihadi-who-came-in-from-the-cold-islamic-state/
Neumann, P. R. (2015). Victims, Perpetrators, Assets: The Narratives of Islamic State Defectors. The International Centre for the study of Radicalisation and political violence.
Nimr, M. (2015, 8 June). Islamic State defector speaks out. Retrieved on 12 May 2016, from http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/security/2015/06/syria-qalamoun-islamic- state-defector-failure-arsal.html#
Press Trust of India (2014, 30 november). I cleaned toilets while in ISIS, Kalyan youth Areeb Majeed tells NIA. Retrieved on 18 July 2016, from http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/I-cleaned-toilets-while-in-ISIS-Kalyan-youth-Areeb-Majeed-tells-IA/articleshow/45328623.cms
Safi, M. (2015, 19 May). Australian man who fled Syria says he never joined ‘vicious and cruel’ Isis. Retrieved on 14 June 2016, from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/may/20/australian-man-who-fled-syria-says-he-never-joined-vicious-and-cruel-isis Speckhard, A., &
Yayla, A. S. (2015). Eyewitness Accounts from Recent Defectors from Islamic State: Why They Joined, What They Saw, Why They Quit. Perspectives on Terrorism, 9, 95-118.
The Associated Press (2015, 3 February). Disillusioned ex-Islamic State members tell of ‘slaughter’:‘It’s not a revolution or jihad’. Retrieved on 26 July 2016, van http://www.nydailynews.com/news/world/isis-fighters-defection-finding-new-life-rough-article-1.2101625
Tremblay, R.E. & Nagin, D.S. (2005). Developmental trajectory groups: Fact or fiction? Criminology, 43 (4): 873-904.
Van Ginkel, B., and E. Entenmann (Eds.), “The Foreign Fighters Phenomenon in the European Union. Profiles, Threats & Policies”, The International Centre for Counter- Terrorism – The Hague 7, no. 2 (2016).
Werber, C. (2015, 14 November). Paris has suffered Europe’s worst terror attack in 10 years. Here’s what we know. Retrieved on 11 July 2016, from http://qz.com/550169/paris-has-suffered-europes-worst-terror-attack-in-10-years- heres-what-happened/
Witte, G., Mekhennet, S., & Birnbaum, M. (2016, 22 March). Islamic State claims responsibility for the Brussels attacks. Retrieved on 11 July 2016, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/brussels-on-high-alert-after-explosions-at-airport-and-metro-station/2016/03/22/b5e9f232-f018-11e5-a61f- e9c95c06edca_story.html
The JD Journal for Deradicalization uses a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND) Licence. You are free to share - copy and redistribute the material in any medium or format under the following conditions:
Attribution — You must give appropriate credit, provide a link to the license, andindicate if changes were made. You may do so in any reasonable manner, but not in any way that suggests the licensor endorses you or your use.
NonCommercial — You may not use the material for commercial purposes.
NoDerivatives — If you remix, transform, or build upon the material, you may not distribute the modified material.