You are here

Important in calculating the risk of Daesh

Apr 23,2017 - Last updated at Apr 23,2017

Since the appearance of Daesh in Iraq and Syria, over the last few years, journalists have been analysing the situation, but much of the coverage has focused on the number of fighters and their nationalities, which suggests a misunderstanding of the region and its people.

Western journalists have preconceived notions about the universality of the concept of nation state and many fail to understand that nationhood is a relatively modern concept, particularly in the Middle East, where society and culture are based on thousands of years of development at the core of which is a tribal mentality.

The history of the region is one of tribes brought together at various times and in different forms by strong leaders to form region-wide civilisations and empires.

One empire, in this situation, was created by the spread of Islam, under which various methods were used to convert the populations and bring them under the rule of the Caliphate.

Over hundreds of years, Islam has overlaid local cultures and customs, even the culture shared across the region, far more than any modern notion of nationalism. 

Daesh is tapping into that shared religious and cultural history to appeal to people across the region.

The modern borders that define nation states across the region are not the best framework within which to assess the success of Daesh’s recruitment.

Understanding the origin of the fighters is practically useful for law-enforcement and national security agencies responding to growing levels of radicalisation to understand factors such as upbringing and life circumstances, but this is only part of the puzzle.

This is demonstrated by the estimates 1,400 people from France that travelled to the region to fight with Daesh. Moreover, according to UK police, 700 British residents who were fighting alongside Daesh are now back in the UK.

This phenomenon can be explained if seen through the lens of Daesh’s declaration of a caliphate, which created a global movement that transcends national borders by tapping into the shared culture of Islam, albeit an entirely warped interpretation of the religion.

When journalists talk about the majority of Daesh fighters coming from Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Turkey and Jordan, it is quite misleading.

Yes, there is a problem with radicalisation in a country like Jordan, and yes, there are many Jordanians who are fighting with Daesh, but Jordan shares a border with Iraq and Syria, it has high levels of youth unemployment and a majority population of refugees.

However, according to official Jordanian sources, the current number of Jordanian fighters in both Syria and Iraq stands at around 900. 

This obviously does not point to a phenomenon, but shows that the numbers circulating today in some reports are not accurate.

Moreover, while we often see estimates of the number of fighters from certain Arab countries, we do not look at where they actually came from and very rarely hear that nearly 20 per cent of fighters are residents or nationals of Western European countries.

The fact remains that the whole world is facing the risk of Daesh and radicalisation.

There are various levels of threats, depending on this terrorist group’s proximity to the region, and the profile of various countries targeted by Daesh differs, but let us not fall into the trap of creating stereotypes that do not take into consideration cultural or historical context, and are unfair to a country that is otherwise key in winning this battle and protect its people from real threats.

115 users have voted.


I am always amazed what the journalists do NOT report. Yes, lots of foreign fighters came to join daesh. Yes, they have a radical militant ideology. But WHO gave them the weapons? WHO gave them the cash? That did not come out of thin air! At least you could cover this aspect in one sentence.

Add new comment

This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
8 + 12 =
Solve this simple math problem and enter the result. E.g. for 1+3, enter 4.


Get top stories and blog posts emailed to you each day.