A national strategic framework for countering violent extremism in Jordan.

AuthorChin, Mia

Following the uprisings in the Arab world, the region has lurched into a period of massive change and instability. An unfortunate consequence of this change has been the rise and proliferation of militant groups such as ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham) and jubhat al-Nusra in Iraq and Syria. These militant groups successfully recruit members from the region and beyond, fueling conflict in countries that have witnessed unrest, such as Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Iraq, and Syria. Although Jordan has long been seen as a regional hub of stability and security, especially by its Western allies, it increasingly exhibits symptoms of the long-standing pressures exerted upon it by the surrounding conflicts, resulting refugee crises, and pre-existing domestic challenges. Jordan's hypothetical fall into instability could have catastrophic consequences for the region, exacerbating the crises in Syria and Iraq, empowering ISIS and other militant groups, and threatening regional and global security. In response, this article offers a general framework for the expansion of the country's nascent Counter Violent Extremism (CVE) program, including both preventative and remedial measures. Beginning with an overview of the processes of radicalization and de-radicalization, this article proceeds with a brief discussion of Jordan's current situation before synthesizing scholarly articles and analyses of other CVE programs in order to establish a framework to guide Jordan's developing CVE interventions.


Bordered by Syria, Iraq, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Palestine, Jordan's location makes it vulnerable to the effects of volatile regional conflicts and violent extremism. (1) Not only is Jordan challenged by regional instability, it is also crippled by high unemployment rates, dependency on foreign aid and remittances, and strained natural resources. (2) Despite being a regional hub of stability in the Middle East, the severity of Jordan's vulnerability to violent extremism, and its underlying conditions, remains overlooked. Estimates from 2013 placed the number of Jordanians actively taking part in violent extremist groups in Syria as high as 2,089, and 2015 estimates ranked Jordan as the highest foreign-fighter contributor per capita in the world to the conflict. (3) These statistics do not reflect the number of radicals and individuals in Jordan at-risk of joining, or linked with, violent extremist groups. With an alarming number of foreign fighters, disjointed counter-violent-extremism (CVE) strategies, and inadequate facilities to host and de-radicalize violent extremists, the return of thousands of violent extremists poses an even greater risk to the stabilization of Jordan with disastrous consequences for the region and worldwide.

This article develops a framework for Jordan to expand its CVE program and implement a three-pronged program focusing on counter-radicalization, de-radicalization, and reintegration at the local government level, with a focus on youth. Using government data and laws, supplemented by pertinent scholarly literature, we analyze the current CVE laws, national strategy, and implementing agencies of Jordan. The article includes a review of academic literature in the fields of radicalization and CVE in order to holistically understand the drivers of radicalization and violent extremism, and the best means of combating them. Based on this review, we identify key thematic components for a comprehensive CVE strategy including preventative and remedial programs. We develop tangible strategies Jordan can use in programming and implementing successful CVE interventions within an analysis of Jordan's social, economic, and political context.

There are two forms of combatting violent extremism: counter-radicalization, which is preventitive, and de-radicalization, which is remedial. Counter-radicalization programs seek to mitigate the factors that could lead to radicalization in a community and thereby prevent the potential transition to violent extremism in the first place. For the purposes of this article, we will adhere to the definition of radicalization given by Horgan: "the social and psychological process of incrementally experienced commitment to extremist political or religious ideology ... [r]adicalization may not necessarily lead to violence, but is one of several risk factors required for this." (4) De-radicalization interventions occur after an individual has already been radicalized and attempt to prevent an individual from returning to violent extremism. Such interventions consist of three steps: disengagement, de-radicalization, and reintegration.

Disengagement is the process of shifting one's behavior to abstain from violent activities and withdraw from a violent extremist group. (5) Disengagement only includes the cessation of participating in violent extremist activities and does not imply that the individual no longer adheres to a radical ideology. Though disengagement is an important step in combatting violent extremism, it is, in and of itself, an insufficient one, as disengaged individuals who remain radicalized are at high risk of returning to violent extremism. (6) De-radicalization is the process of actually instigating a shift in the beliefs of the individual such that they disengage from a radical ideology. (7)

This article will develop a joint approach to countering violent extremism in Jordan, incorporating both counter and de-radicalization strategies. The implementation of such an approach will help Jordan to mitigate the impact of already radicalized individuals engaging in violent extremism while simultaneously minimizing the number of individuals who join violent extremist groups. Doing so will not only reduce the risk of violent extremism in Jordan, and thereby ensure long-term stability, but it will also save Jordanian and non-Jordanian lives by limiting the impact of violent extremism regionally and globally.

While this article strives to propose comprehensive and appropriate strategies for CVE, there are limitations to the specificity of study due to insufficient information. Substantive information about Jordan's CVE programs, including the Community Peace Centre (CPC) and the newly established Directorate of Combating Extremism and Violence, is not publicly available. It remains unclear how many violent extremists are currently enrolled in prison-based de-radicalization programs, and how detainees have benefitted from the program. Furthermore, it is unclear if there are criteria for selecting participants, a de-radicalization methodology or an exit strategy to facilitate reintegration into communities used by the CPC. Information that details the human, technical, and financial capacities of the Directorate of Combating Extremism and Violence is not publicly available. As of now, the directorate's program implementation strategy remains unknown.


The rising threat of violent extremism in recent years has corresponded with the proliferation of literature on radicalization, violent extremism, and, to a lesser extent, the means of combatting them. Scholarly discussion of the subject has largely focused on the process of radicalization and the various factors contributing to it. General consensus holds that there is no universal pathway to radicalization and violent extremism; rather, there exists a diverse array of political, economic, psychosocial, cultural, and ideological factors that can contribute to varying degrees at varying stages to an individual's radicalization and adoption of violent extremism. (8) Nevertheless, debates around which of those factors are most important continue to invigorate the discussion.

Driven by income inequality, state instability unemployment, lack of political participation, state-citizen distrust, social marginalization, and low self-esteem, youth constitute the majority of people who join radical and violent extremist groups. (9) The factors driving an individual to radicalize and join a violent extremist group are known as "push" and "pull" factors: push factors are circumstances that make an individual's current lifestyle unattractive, such as social marginalization, government repression, or unemployment; pull factors are circumstances that make a violent extremist ideology or group attractive to an individual, such as a sense of belonging, financial incentives, or the desire for adventure or glory. (10) These two sets of factors work together to catalyze the process of radicalization and adoption of violent extremism.

Jean Luc Marret, a researcher specializing in political violence and terrorism in the Arab world, does not identify any particular factor as being the most influential. Still, he argues that young people are likely to join an extremist group for social or psychological reasons rather than ideological ones; ideologies are subsequently adopted as a result of continued exposure or as a means of justifying past -actions. (11) This conclusion is substantiated by Githens-Mazer and Lambert, two political scientists who in their article seek to correct unsupported assumptions that pervade the global discussion on radicalization through two case studies. In the article, they undermine the commonly assumed correlation between the adoption of, or attachment to, radical ideology and the transition to violent extremism. (12) Rather than discussing the factors pushing individuals toward radicalization, Iannaccone and Berman discuss what might pull an individual toward violent extremist groups. Still, they likewise minimize the impact of militant ideology, arguing instead that the success of violent extremist groups in recruiting new members is a result of their ability to inflame religious tensions, improve social services, encourage private enterprise, and work where governments and economies function poorly. (11)

Based on an overview of counter and de-radicalization...

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