Suburban Bliss or Disillusionment - Why Do Terrorists Quit?

Liesbeth van der Heide, Robbert Huurman

Abstract


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


Keywords


Desistance, Disengagement, Deradicalization, Terrorism, Extremism, Islamic State, Life Course theory, Narratives

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References


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