Orlando and Nice attacks: Domestic violence links to radicalisation

Originally Published by BBC News 22 July 2016. Original linked here.

In the aftermath of the recent mass killings by lone attackers in Orlando and Nice, more details have come to light about the attackers’ histories and identities. Both attackers had track records of domestic violence, records of depression and questions around their sexual identities.

As the Islamic State group (IS) continues to stake claim on exported attacks on the West, it has also disseminated a range of identity politics and gender norms.The message is less about empowering individuals through religion, and more about attracting insecure and threatened individuals with a psychological need for control and simple answers. Continue reading

Newsweek Podcast Ep. 2: Hunting Lone Wolves

Episode two of Newsweek’s Foreign Service podcast asks how governments can prevent erratic and unpredictable attacks by so-called “lone wolf” terrorists. Published 21 July 2016. Link to Newsweek Foreign Service Podcast here

Gavin Long, the man who killed three police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on Sunday, had past links with radical groups. But in politically charged Youtube videos infused with violent rhetoric, he insisted he acted alone. In Nice, where Mohamed Bouhlel killed at least 64 people and wounded dozens more with a truck, the Islamic State Militant Group (ISIS) took credit for the carnage. But Bouhlel’s links with the group are unclear, and likely indirect.

So how do you prepare for attacks that come without warning or large-scale planning? Do we now live in a world where any angry, isolated person who comes across the right messages can become a terrorist? Or, with the right knowledge, can governments and security services separate genuine dangers from false alarms, and turn those most at risk of perpetrating appalling crimes back from the brink?

This episode discusses the question from our London office with Hillary Hurd, who has studied religious-inspired violence and strategies for post-conflict rehabilitation, and Erin Marie Saltman, a senior researcher at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue. Link to podcast: https://soundcloud.com/newsweek-foreign-service/episode-two-hunting-lone-wolves

Book Chapter: Female Radicalization to ISIS and the Role of Women in CVE

Saltman, E. and Frennett, R. (2016) ‘Female Radicalization to ISIS and the Role of Women in CVE’, in Chowdury Fink et. al. (eds.), A Man’s World? Exploring the Roles of Women in Countering Terrorism and Violent Extremism, (Abu Dhabi and New York: Hedayah and GCCS), pp. 142 – 163.

Abstract: Women have played significant roles in a number of contemporary terrorist organizations. A range of far-right, far-left and Islamist extremist organizations have utilized female forces for a variety of activities including logistics, recruitment, political safeguarding, operational leadership, suicide bombing and combat. The recent surge in female recruitment to groups such as the terrorist organization Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) has brought this long lasting phenomenon into sharp focus. This trend is unfortunately often paired with misperceptions around the role of women within these violent networks and engendered responses to the radicalization of women. A more nuanced understanding of the roles women play in preventing and countering violent extremism (PVE and CVE) is therefore critical. This chapter explores the crucial roles that women play in countering the violent extremist narrative, by reaching a wider audience of those “at risk” of radicalization and bringing much-needed innovation into the CVE sector. Addressing gender dynamics in CVE work is significant as we see an increasing number of women being radicalized and recruited into terrorist networks like ISIS from all over the world.

Full publication available here: http://www.hedayah.ae/pdf/a-man-s-world-1.pdf

What next for the missing Bethnal Green girls in Syria?

Originally Published by The Telegraph 03 July 2015. Original linked here.

Britain has seen hundreds of male foreign terrorist fighters return home, but what happens when Isil jihadi brides want to come back? While the number of Western male foreign terrorist fighters remains staggering, there is an equally unprecedented number of Western females migrating to Syria and Iraq to join Isil state-building efforts.

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‘Till Martyrdom Do Us Part’ – Gender and the ISIS Phenomenon

By Erin Marie Saltman and Melanie Smith

The following is the introduction to the latest Women and Extremism report from ISD. A link to the full report can be found here. Launched 28 May 2015

Although often assumed to be passive agents, women have played significant roles in a number of contemporary terrorist organizations. Violent extremist groups across the political and ideological spectrum have utilised female forces for a range of activities including logistics, recruitment, political safeguarding, operations, suicide bombing and combat. However, the recent unprecedented surge in female recruits to the terrorist organization Islamic State (ISIS) has brought this phenomenon into sharp focus. For many there remain misperceptions and misunderstandings concerning the role women play within these violent networks, often paired with engendered responses to the radicalisation of women. By analysing how terrorist organisations choose to utilise women, we are able to better understand the decision-making processes of terrorists and the inner-workings of the organization itself. Continue reading

The Institute for Strategic Dialogue on embracing the ‘softer side’ of counter-terrorism

By Erin Marie Saltman and Jake Barker

Originally Published by New World UNA-UK 24 February 2015. Original linked here.

The need for cohesive and effective counter-terrorism policy among UN member states is as crucial as ever. Transnational terrorist organisations, like Islamic State (IS), are territorially expanding in the Middle East, while the foreign fighter phenomenon is affecting a number of countries. With the continuation of this crisis, international gaps within counter-terrorism strategies have shown themselves. There is scope for improvement in UN strategies in terms of increasing its soft power capabilities through enhancing the infrastructure around counter-extremism. Continue reading

GCHQ can delete extremist content online all it wants, but it won’t help defeat ISIS

Originally Published by The Independent 6 November 2014. Original linked here.

Recent comments made by the head of Britain’s surveillance agency, Robert Hannigan, insinuate that social media companies are in part to blame for the ease in which jihadists and extremist groups use online tools to propagandise and recruit. Not only is this line of thought misguided, but it remains counterproductive to focus security measures on censorship initiatives that, invariably, target a symptom rather than its cause. It is imperative that security services evolve alongside the rapidly changing threat.

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