Within the framework of the Social Reintegration and Resilience to Combat Radicalization in Northeast Syria project, which is funded by the EU and implemented by JFL, which has been active in the Social Structure Research field. JFL has worked an analytical report the impact of extremist groups and their ideology on local communities, particularly vulnerable groups. Acknowledging the socio-economic, insecurity, and associated violence elements as the main causes of extremism, the analytical report recommended promoting coordination between civil society and local communities and authorities to slow down the extremist impact and to protect the region from falling to extremist groups. The analytical report’s findings are based on interviews with key informants. Additionally, JFL has designed its own research tools such as focus group discussions and close-ended questions to figure out the social tendencies, which enlighten a road map to change and reinforce the region from any possible return of extremist ideology.
Between 2014 and 2017, the northeastern Syrian regions (mainly the governorates of Al-Raqqa, Al-Hasakah, and Deir Ezzor) were controlled by the extremist group of ISIS (the Islamic State). This period has marked the longest of all ISIS control over any other areas in Syria. Moreover, extremists committed numerous violations under the rule of ISIS, including detentions, kidnaps, child recruitment, displacement of civil populations, and enforcing unprecedented brutal punishments. Consequently, the northeastern governorates became the main battlefield of the decisive anti-ISIS military campaign. As a result, hundreds of thousands of civilians escaped the region particularly fled Al-Raqqa, Deir Ezzor, and some parts of Al-Hasakah governorate. After the defeat of ISIS, the Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) gained control over almost the entire region. At the same time, main cities such as Al-Hasakah and Al-Qamishli received thousands of IDPs in mass displacement waves. Additionally, other IDPs from the government-controlled Al-Raqqa and Aleppo countryside relocated to the SDF-controlled Al-Raqqa governorate.
After the defeat of ISIS, local communities witnessed a considerable improvement in several civic fields, such as freedom of opinion and expression, freedom of civil society activity, basic services, and women’s participation. However, the security status has not recovered, which led to deteriorating living conditions, besides institutional corruption of the Autonomous Administration bodies and the lack of job opportunities.
The main causes of extremism’s existence and spreading remain unchanged: poverty, inequality, insecurity, political exclusion, marginalization, racial/ethnic discrimination, and substantial damage to damage to education sector. Furthermore, this state of tension could escalate into even more social unrest and exposure to military threats such as the Syrian government forces and their allied militias or the Turkish-backed rebels, which control areas of northeast Syria. Reintegrating the families of ex-combatants is one of the most crucial issues that need just solutions that consider both rights and fears of the local community, without deprivation anybody of their basic rights.
There is a gap in coordination between the influential parties in northeastern Syria, and it is limited to local conflicts or issues of detainees. Therefore, it cannot be extended to participation in local decision-making or accountability.
Reinforcing the local community’s resilience to extremist ideology requires handling several reasons that facilitated and contributed to extremism. However, should steps can be taken right away, the Northeastern community would quickly solidify immunity and speeds the recovery from the consequences of extremism.