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Policy Brief

Motives and Considerations of Potential Foreign Fighters from the Netherlands

27 Jul 2015
Policy Brief by Edwin Bakker, Peter Grol

Despite the fact that the Netherlands has been confronted for more than three years with the phenomenon of foreign fighters in Syria, we still have little insight into the backgrounds and motivations of these persons. Most knowledge available on this subject comes from journalistic work. Scientific studies into the characteristics and biographies of these foreign fighters are scarce. Also, they are based on only a small number of cases. Knowledge about persons who once indicated they wanted to travel to Syria to take part in the fight against the regime of Bashar al Assad is virtually non-existent. However, the question why people ultimately let go of the idea to travel to Syria is particularly relevant. Maybe their motives and considerations can teach us how others playing with the idea can be convinced or stopped from going to Syria. In order to gain a better insight into this, six so-called “potential foreign fighters” were studied on the basis of interviews with them and/or persons from their immediate circle. As these six persons merely represent a small random number from an unknown population, no general conclusions can be drawn. This Policy Brief is limited to highlighting a number of observations we identified among several potential foreign fighters and the visions of professionals we interviewed, including confidential advisers, lecturers and imams. These observations and visions form the basis of a number of policy suggestions that could contribute to the prevention policy within the framework of the “Comprehensive Action Programme to Combat Jihadism” of the Dutch government.

Read the Policy Brief.

How to cite: Bakker, E. and P. Grol. "Motives and Considerations of Potential Foreign Fighters from the Netherlands", The International Centre for Counter-Terrorism - The Hague 6, no. 3 (2015). DOI: