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Mothers exert most influential pressure on foreign terrorist fighters to return home — UN

According to the UN, "economic factors have become more important as a push factor" for foreign terrorist fighters going to Syria

UNITED NATIONS, August 4. /TASS/. Foreign terrorist fighters (FTF) often go to Syria for economic reasons and leave the country because of their disappointment in terrorist organizations or the pressure exerted by their families, the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Center said in a recent report.

The report is based on the study of 43 militants representing 12 nationalities, interviewed between August 2015 and November 2016. As many as 33 of them went to Syria but later decided to return to their native country, while the remaining ten did not make it into the conflict zone and were detained by law enforcement agencies. Only two of the interviewed were of Syrian origin, while others did not have any connection to Syria.

Reasons to leave country of residence

"Foreign terrorist fighters leave their country of residence for different reasons. Push and pull factors intertwine in different ways according to the individual and the internal and external environment each one faces," the UN report reads. Most of the interviewed were "young, male and without an advanced education." According to the UN, such people "are disadvantaged economically, lack education and have poor labor prospects, even when they come from Western societies." They mostly "come from large families in urban communities that are rather isolated from mainstream social, economic and political activity," the report adds.

According to the UN, "economic factors have become more important as a push factor than was the case in earlier waves of foreign terrorist fighters, for example to Afghanistan in the 1980s, other political and social factors have contributed in varying degrees." "Religious belief seems to have played a minimal role in the motivation of this FTF sample," the report said.

"Unresolved conflicts that include inter-communal violence appear to be one of the strongest magnets" for foreign terrorist fighters, the UN experts pointed out. "This was one of the most common reasons that individual foreign terrorist fighters in our sample gave for travelling to Syria. Empathy with the Sunni communities in Syria that are portrayed as being under attack as much for their belief as for any other reason was a common theme," they added.

Family pressure

The UN report says that foreign militants are motivated to leave Syria "either by their genuine disappointment in and disenfranchisement by the terrorist organization they joined, or were disillusioned by their host’s lack of welcome, be it the Syrian people or the terrorist group itself." "The screening processes of armed groups tend to weed out the useful from the less useful recruits, leaving the latter with the choice of either remaining undervalued, seeking out another group, or returning to their country of residence," the report adds.

At the same time, although "social networks play a key role in motivating individuals to go to Syria, their influence on the decision to return is less evident." "Instead, it is the family network, particularly mothers, that exert the most influential pressure on FTFs to return home, though only once their disillusionment and disappointment has begun to kick in," the UN experts said.

They noted that by studying the reasons that drive foreign citizens to take part in military activities in Syria would help "understand the phenomenon of foreign terrorist fighters, assess the risks they pose, and develop effective responses."