The Jihadists from Europe in the Middle East: Phantom and Real Menace

DOI: 10.20542/0131-2227-2015-10-18-29

A. Yashlavskii, Primakov Institute of World Economy and International Relations, Russian Academy of Sciences (IMEMO), 23, Profsoyuznaya Str., Moscow, 117997, Russian Federation (

Abstract. The issue of foreign fighters from Europe who travel to fight on the side of radical jihadist groups in the Middle East (primarily in Syria and Iraq) is growing in importance in view of the threat those militants who return home present for their countries. On the other hand, although almost every armed conflict in the countries with predominantly Muslim population attracts foreign volunteers. In particular, the Syrian civil war became the main point of attraction of jihadists from all over the world. Syria is considered by some experts as an “incubator” for Islamist militants. According to some estimates, dozens of thousands of foreigners from about 100 countries participate in Syrian war, including several thousands of citizens of Western nations (Europe and Northern America). Most of foreigners join to the most infamous extremist groups like Islamic State (aka ISIL, or ISIS) and Front al-Nusra (Jabhat al-Nusra). The phenomenon of European Jihadists is connected to a broad range of objective and subjective problems. At this time, the information technologies – particularly, social Internet-media – play a huge role for recruiting young European Muslims by extremists. Together with the battles on Syrian or Iraqi grounds the struggle for minds and souls of people goes in the Internet. At the moment, the extremists generally win this battle. It is necessary for the governments and the civil society of the European countries work out a strategy and effective measures for struggling against a potential menace from the militants returning home from Jihad. No less important is to take preventive actions against the recruiting of young Europeans into the militant groupings.

Keywords: Islamic State, Front al-Nusra, Islamism, terrorism, extremism, Jihadism, Syria, Iraq, Europe, Middle East, foreign fighters, social media

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For citation:
Yashlavskii A. The Jihadists from Europe in the Middle East: Phantom and Real Menace. World Eonomy and International Relations, 2015, no. 10, pp. 18-29.

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