Has Algeria taken an anti-IS vaccine? asks analyst Jenny Gustafsson, noting the country’s apparent immunity to jihadist violence, at least recently:
At first, it seems surprising. Algeria, the largest country in Africa and home to 40 million people, knows extremism well. When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979, Algerians were among the first to join the newly formed mujahideen. Then, during Algeria’s civil war in the 1990s – known locally as the “black decade” – Islamist groups established a presence across the country. Attacks and bombings, followed by counter-offensives from the government, led to the deaths of more than 150,000 people and the disappearances of another 7,000. Only in 2001 was the conflict finally brought to an end.
Fifteen years later, radicalism appears to hold relatively little appeal in Algeria. There could, of course, be a spectacular attack tomorrow and statistics don’t tell the whole story, but in terms of IS’s recent recruitment of foreign fighters, Algeria lags far behind other countries in North Africa.
And while questions remain about the effectiveness of strategies that fall under the umbrella of “Countering Violent Extremism“, Tarek Hadjoudj, a physician and civil society activist who works with youth projects across the country, says Algeria’s experience with conflict makes even informal programs more effective, Gustafsson adds:
As part of a reconciliation process after the civil war, many former fighters were granted amnesty and reintegrated into their communities. “They are now talking to youths, telling them that violence leads to nothing,” he explained, mentioning the case of a long-time fighter who lives in Jiel, a conservative northern area of the country.
Today, Hadjoudj said, that fighter is “actively reaching out and discouraging youth from joining [IS]”.He added that in his conversations with young people who sympathise with Islamist extremism, they don’t tend to mention a desire to go abroad and fight. “There is a consciousness today, especially in many low-income neighbourhoods, that what happened during our years of terrorism led to nothing.”
Building upon the current debate on the origin and nature of jihadist militancy, Jihadist Hotbeds – Understanding Local Radicalisation Processes, a report from the European Foundation for Democracy and ISPI, a Milan-based think-tank, outlines a broad spectrum of radicalization factors contributing to the emergence of jihadist hotbeds: poverty, unemployment, lack of job prospects, juvenile delinquency, trafficking and smuggling, socio–political, economic and physical marginalization, the role of Salafist ideology as well as the influence of Brotherhood networks.
Regional Hotbeds as Drivers of Radicalization, Ali Soufan and Daniel Schoenfeld
ISIS and al–Shabaab in Minnesota’s Twin Cities: The American Hotbed, Lorenzo Vidino, Seth Harrison and Clarissa Spada
Molenbeek and Beyond. The Brussels–Antwerp Axis as Hotbed of Belgian Jihad, Guy Van Vlierden
Hotbeds of Extremism: The UK Experience?, Douglas Weeks
Beyond Gornje Maoče and Osve: Radicalization in the Western Balkans, Florian Qehaja
The Libyan Radicalization Hotbeds: Derna and Sirte as Case Studies, Arturo Varvelli
Multiple Layers of Marginalization as a Paradigm of Tunisian Hotbeds of Jihadism, Valentina Colombo
Insurgency or Terrorism? A New Front in Sinai, Giuseppe Dentice
Revived Hotbeds in the Caucasus: Pankisi Valley and Dagestan, Mairbek Vatchagaev
Conclusions, Paolo Maggiolini and Arturo Varvelli