Title: Why Young Syrians Choose to Fight: Vulnerability and Resilience to Recruitment by Violent Extremist Groups in Syria
Authors: Meg Aubrey, Rosie Aubrey, Frances Brodrick, Caroline Brooks
Institution: International Alert
Publication Date: May, 2016
Keywords: Syria, Conflict, Gender
Within the last six years, the Syrian conflict has led to destruction, death and displacement at an unprecedented scale. An estimated 12,000 Syrian children have been killed and according to a UNHCR census conducted in early 2016, the conflict has left two million children as refugees in Syria’s neighbouring countries.
An increasing challenge to peace in the region is the alarming rate at which armed groups are recruiting children and young people in Syria and its neighbouring countries. As the international community increases its efforts in countering violent extremism, this research summary shines a light on a demographic group (young Syrian males), often marginalised from mainstream discourse. The summary weaves in the voices and experiences of 311 young Syrians, their families and community members across Syria, Lebanon and Turkey. In doing so, this summary is indicative of the main issues and trends underpinning the push and pull factors for young Syrians joining armed groups. This research summary also aims to broaden the discourse; highlighting that radicalisation ‘is not an explanation for joining violent extremism groups’. Rather, there are multiple overlapping factors making Syrians vulnerable to recruitment. Although the summary paves the way for expanding our understanding of these push and pull factors, due to security limitations, data was not collected from Syrians living in regime held areas.
Therefore, this research summary provides a platform for policy makers and humanitarian actors to advocate for further research and programme development into this subject. This research summary is particularly relevant for development practitioners working on gender and youth in conflict, as well as, countering violent extremism (CVE) initiatives.