Policy brief summarizing lessons learnt on the EU’s measures to prevent violent extremism in the region

EU  Midtøsten og Nord-Afrika  Terrorisme og ekstremisme
Written by

Erik Skare

Ahmad Mhidi

Georges Fahmi

Nouran Ahmed

Kamaran Palani

Myriam Ababsa

Olivier Roy

Dlawer Ala‘Aldeen



There are a number of grievances attributed as drivers of violent extremism. Poverty, autocratic governance and human rights violations, precarious masculinities, or the lack of education, mentioning just some, all create what we may term “enabling environments” – areas in which various factors create a conducive situation where segments of its population become prone to violent extremism. Still, the majority living in such enabling environments and experiencing these grievances do not engage in any acts of violence or join any extremist organizations. This begs the question, why do some communities display far greater resilience to violent extremist ideologies than others?

In our newly released PREVEX working paper analyzing the drivers, occurrence, and non-occurrence of violent extremism in the MENA region, we study four cases of the nonoccurrence of violent extremism in Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and Iraq.1 Specifically, we analyze why segments among disenfranchised Islamist Egyptian youth, the majority of Jordanian jihadists, the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI), and the Syrian village Swedan in the Deir Ez-Zor province have displayed a far greater resilience to carrying out violent extremism than others. We assess the role and importance of local community and religious leaders, the role of tribal affiliation, ideological exposure, good governance and political inclusion, poverty and marginalization, and state repression.

We address both a scholarly puzzle and a policy problem. If the aforementioned grievances create enabling environments conducive to violent extremism, why is it that the majority in these situations actually abstain from violence and reject extremist ideologies? What does that tell us about the role and dynamics of enabling environments? The policy problem relates to how one evaluates, weighs, and approaches populations in enabling environments and who are thus perceived to be prone to violent extremism. Put bluntly, should a population residing in an enabling environment be treated as future extremists or terrorists, to wit, a problem in need of securitization? Necessarily, these findings have consequences for how we perceive the feasibility of past and current EU funding programs intended to prevent violent extremism in the Middle East.

  • Published year: 2021
  • Full version: Les her
  • Publisher: PREVEX
  • Language: Engelsk