The roots and risks of jihadism in North Africa

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Date: Thursday 31 March 2016

Time: 08:00 - 09:30

The questions of why young people fight with the Islamic State group, and what threat they pose when they return, are some of the most pressing in today’s security environment. Behind the lurid videos of atrocities and the shock of terrorist attacks stand young people, drawn mainly from the populations of Middle East and North African states that are overwhelmingly youthful. In this region, issues of economic deprivation and political frustration are fusing to create a potent mix with long-term implications.

Our speaker provides a unique perspective, after a year of field research in Tunisia speaking to young men in the economically marginalised neighbourhoods from which extremists recruit. His work has involved conversations with committed jihadist ideologues, close friends and family members of those who have travelled abroad to fight with extremist groups, and those wrestling with the temptation of extremist ideology.

Assessments of what threat the Islamic State group can pose, and what whether its appeal and power in the region will grow or wane, can be drawn from the experiences of individual Tunisian men and women. They have profound implications for the entire Middle East. This Breakfast Briefing will analyse:

  • Why do people join the Islamic State, and other extremist groups?
  • What threat do returning jihadists pose in their countries?
  • The future of Islamist militancy, and its appeal to young people
  • The risks to foreign assets and individuals, in the North African context
  • The political environment


Mike Marcusa is the Tunisia consultant for the ‘Ask our Experts’ service of Menas Associates, and a PhD candidate at Brown University researching dynamics of youth and radicalisation in Tunisia. He is based in Tunis but travels through the poorer interior of the country, where his experiences as an American meeting jihadists have been published in such magazines as the Atlantic.