•  
    •  
    • Press Contact

    • For information regarding BCSP activities please contact our Communications Officer

      Dragana Belanovic +381646479097

      dragana.belanovic@bezbednost.org

       

    •  
    •  
    • Info BCSP

    • Sign up to receive our e-bulletin.
    •  
    •  
    •  
     
    • Lessons for Serbia from the Study on ISIS Fighters from Kosovo

    •  
    • Date: 02 July 2015
      Repressive governments’ policies towards conservative Muslims lead to their extremisations, was the conclusion based on the report authored by Shpend Kursani from the Kosovar Centre for Security Studies(KCSS) , which was presented today in Belgrade Centre for Security Policy (BCSP).

      “It is important not to generalize and consider all Muslims as violent extremists; arrests and imprisonments of the conservative Muslims without taking into account possible consequences should be avoided.  Religion that is misunderstood and wrongly presented is the main cause of extremism” said Kursani during the event held in BCSP library on 2 July. He underlined that arrestments and punishments are not useful l since hey only confirms opinion of the conservatives about governments’ double standards: insults and mocking Islam is acceptable and not punished, while nonviolent believers are being persecuted and isolated from public life.Kursani emphasized that problem of religious fundamentalism should not only be of concern for the security forces but the whole society. “It is important to include media, academic institutions and religious communities, especially the conservative Muslims and imams, who are key actors in solving this complex problem,” Kursani concluded.

      Kursani thinks that the way extremists should be approached depends on which group they belong to. The ones that came back from Syria and Iraq and regret both their involvement and acceptance of the extremist ideology should not be imprisoned because they can be the most useful in preventing further recruitment of foreign fighters. For the ones that regret about going to Syria and Iraq but not about accepting the ideology there should be an attempt to bring them closer to the conservatives, the non-violent fractions. And the ones that did not regret neither being involved in conflicts or ideology remain a difficult group that even in prison can affect other prisoners by spreading the radical ideology.

      The stand of state on the extremists

      “Report Inquiring into the Causes and Consequences of Kosovo Citizens’  Involvement as Foreign Fighters in Syria and Iraq” analyzes the factors which place Kosovo on the top of the list of countries with the highest number of foreign fighters per capita involved in the Middle East conflicts (125 per one million of population). According to the report, isolated groups of people mostly living in rural and undeveloped places, with low level of education, are at the highest risk of becoming targets of terrorists and being recruited by ISIS.

      However, the total number of foreign fighters which is indeed the highest proportionally to its population, does not give the true perspective of the problem. If one compares the number of foreign fighters from the European countries to the total size of their Muslim populations, it can be seen that actually the Western European countries are leaders in the number of foreign fighters per capita.

      “The main mistake made by the European governments is not differentiating between the conservative Muslims and the extremists, while implementing repressive policies towards them. In this way they only facilitate transition of conservatives to the extremist groups. It is noticeable that Muslims from secular and non-Muslim countries have higher tendency for joining the extremist groups than those from majority Muslim countries, because they feel more vulnerable and threatened as a social group,” Kursani concluded.

      The path to radicalization

      The discussion attracted great attention of media
      The discussion attracted great attention of media

      According to the report, the recruited foreign fighters are mainly young (46% of them was born between 1985 and 1990), uneducated (3/4 of them finished only secondary school), financially unstable, coming from rural places and with criminal records (more then 1/3 of them was convicted on criminal charges). Even though most of them are male there is a certain number of women and children involved, but this number is much more difficult to determine due to the fact that they often travel with males as their escorts.

      Kursani explained the roots of this radical ideology in Kosovo:

      “The high number of foreign fighters from Kosovo is mainly caused by the radical ideology, which came to Kosovo indirectly from Egypt and through Macedonia, attracting especially young people and those who are new in religion. There are three fractions in Muslim community: liberals, conservatives who are nonviolent, and extremists who are violent and reject the state and its institutions. The problem is that nonviolent Muslims can easily become violent if governments do not treat them adequately and with respect.”

      Channels for recruitment of foreign fighter are through internet, the same as in the other parts of the world. This mainly refers to social networks and YouTube channels where videos with extremist content are easily shared. The public spaces are also convenient for recruitment, as well as mosques and radical imams. Besides that, private space is used for recruitment of young people such as extremists’ apartments and shops in their ownership. In addition, there are some dormitories founded by the followers of religious fundamentalists where poor students and young people rejected from their families can find a place to stay, which makes them an easy target.

      Lessons for Serbia

      Director of BCSP Sonja Stojanovic Gajic pointed out that some of the findings of this report could be relevant for the authorities in Serbia, primarily the conclusion that the neglected groups are most exposed to the risk of radicalization. In her own words, not everyone should be treated equally but should be engaged in dialogue so that it can be determined who truly is a threat and who can be converted.

      Norwegian Ambassador in Belgrade, Nils Ragnar Kamsvag pointed out that Europe must find a new strategy to help preventing the recruitment of foreign fighters, as well as the importance of keeping the open dialogue about regional security. Ambassador Kamsvag commended the collaboration between Western Balkan’s  thin tank community,  and highlighted that this topic is not only the problem of the Balkans or Europe, but a global problem that presents challenge that can only be overcome by intensified cooperation.

      This publication is part of project “Security Research Forum Belgrade-Pristina-Tirana” realized by three independent think tanks: BCSP, KCSS and IDM, with the support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Norway. This project is meant to foster balanced debate among think-tank community, academia, public policy and media in order to provide research-based alternative solutions to ongoing challenges of cooperation among Serbia, Kosovo and Albania. The project is supported by the Embassy of the Kingdom of Norway in Belgrade.
    •  
    • Post a comment

    •  
    •  
    • See all comments

    •  
    •