Adventure and Alienation: Why German Fighters Join ISIS

Friday, April 15, 2016
Assembly E (DoubleTree by Hilton Philadelphia Center City)
Dorle Hellmuth , Politics, The Catholic University of America
This paper provides an in-depth empirical analysis of German foreign fighters who make up the third largest contingent among Western fighters in Syria and Iraq. While general statistical information about German foreign fighters exist, little is known about their motivations and the underlying reasons for why they seek to wage jihad in Syria and Iraq. Drawing on personal interviews and rarely consulted government and court documents, this paper offers original research of the prevailing mechanisms of Jihadi radicalization.  To facilitate this kind of comprehensive in-depth analysis, McCauley and Moskalenko’s “friction” framework is applied to prominent German fighters, including Denis Cuspert (who serves as a leading ISIS propaganda official), Reda Seyam (considered the highest-ranking German ISIS official), various ISIS suicide bombers (Phil Bergner, Abu Ibrahim al-Almani), and others. Knowing how German foreign fighters became radicalized should also provide lessons for other countries in Europe affected by the same problem and help improve Germany's and Europe's resilience to the Jihadi challenge.