De-radicalizing and Reintegrating Foreign Fighters: Why do some cities succeed while others fail? Open Access

Chandrani, Sania (Spring 2019)

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 In 2014, ISIS and Al-Qaeda ramped up their recruitment efforts, and young Muslim men and women from around the world left home to join their ranks in Syria and Iran. As these extremist organizations recede and may fighters return home, some are faced with harsh punishments including imprisonment and revocation of citizenship. However, a few cities like Aarhus and Copenhagen in Denmark work to reintegrate their returnees and help those at risk of leaving to deradicalize and stay home. What allows some cities like Aarhus to respond to this problem with robust programming despite being smaller and less well-resourced than their larger neighbors like Copenhagen? Based on existing research in sociology, psychology, and institutional change, I hypothesize that preexisting institutional cooperation, local autonomy, high public perception of risk, and critical actors can make the difference. After fifteen interviews, and further analysis, I conclude that institutional cooperation and local autonomy are critical for a city to establish reintegration programs while a critical actor is helpful, and public perception may have no influence. Institutional layering appears to be an effective method for establishing strong reintegration institutions rather than starting from scratch. As such, countries seeking to build reintegration programs should seek to build upon existing institutions and leverage partnerships, focus on resilience building at a local level, and develop local capacities to respond to issues autonomously. They should encourage cross-talk between agencies as this has shown to be effective in not only PVE but also public health and education interventions. Finally, policy entrepreneurs can continue to look for windows where their expertise on the topic of PVE will be used by their governments, especially at the local level where they have the most influence. Further investigation into favorable conditions for effective institutional layering, comparison of reintegration of right-wing, left-wing, and religious extremists, as well as the role of public opinion in counter-terrorism policy warrants further research.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Puzzle: Why Aarhus and not Copenhagen?                                                                          1

Abdullah’s Story                                                                                                                      1-4

Introduction                                                                                                                            4-6

Literature Review                                                      

           Rationale                                                                                                                     6-8

           Theoretical and Causal Questions                                                                              8

           Scale and Political Importance of Issue                                                                    8-11

           Defining Deradicalization & Reintegration                                                             11-12

           Psychological Sociological Theories of Preventing Violent Extremism             12-18

           Historical Examples of Government Policy to Handle Terrorism                        18-19

           How policy is formulated: A practical breakdown of the policymaking process      19-22

                       Institutional Change Theories                                                                        22-25

Hypotheses                                                                                                                              25-42

Research Design

           Case Selection                                                                                                             42-43

           Design: Interview-Based Comparative Case Study                                                43-48

           Limitations                                                                                                                  48-51

Data & Results                                                                                                                        51-68

Conclusions & Recommendations                                                                                        69-78

Portable Lessons and Key Takeaways                                                                                   78-83

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