Talking to Foreign Fighters: Socio-Economic Push versus Existential Pull Factors


Lorne Dawson, Amarnath Amarasingam, and Alexandra Bain

The research acquired primary data through interviews with foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq, the families and friends of such fighters, and other online supporters of jihadism, to better understand the process by which these fighters radicalized and their motivations for travelling to Syria or Iraq. Between mid-2014 and early 2016 130 interviews were completed with 40 foreign fighters, 60 family members and friends, and 30 online fans, recruiters, and potential fighters.

Primary data from “talking to terrorists” is very rare, and to date no scholar has published a report on interviews with actual fighters. This report discusses the results of the initial analysis of a first sample of 20 such interviews. The report also summarizes what is known about Canadians who have left to fight, largely in clusters from Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto, Ottawa, and Montreal.

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Research Area(s):


TSAS WP16-14

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