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Executive summary

Tunisia has become a disproportionate source of jihadist recruits. Approximately 6,000 Tunisians have joined the ISIS ranks in Syria, Iraq, and Libya to date, while ruling elites are being confronted with the challenges of home-grown terrorism.

This project develops innovative approaches for radicalization prevention and de-radicalization by analyzing the relationship between experiences of exclusion and female and male youth’s susceptibility to extremism. The research focuses on the underprivileged regions of Tunis, Tataouine and Kasserine, including focus groups with youth from both sexes and anonymized in-depth interviews with former members of the jihadist milieu. Research results provide evidence for decision-makers that inclusion is a key factor for reengaging millennials whose feelings of injustice are being exploited by anti-system extremists.

Building on the deep-rooted spirit of emancipation in Tunisia, the project also identifies adequate participatory inclusive approaches in strategies for radicalization prevention and de-radicalization.

A deep understanding of local context is largely missing from research on why individuals join and leave violent extremist groups. Although a global phenomenon, the roots of violent extremism are local. Tunisia’s history of violent extremism is intertwined with relative depravation: the sense of injustice arising from not attaining the quality of life expected. Although many Tunisian violent extremists are well-educated and come from middle-class backgrounds, they often hail from under-resourced regions. This lack of inclusion may be a driver of joining and exiting violent extremism.

This study aims to establish the centrality of inclusion within deradicalization and prevention programs that respond to violent extremism in the post-revolutionary Tunisia.

The first chapter of the study lays down the methodology and the research questions, including the methodological path and the qualitative data analysis. The research methodology is based on a mixed method approach leaning more towards qualitative analysis to identify, measure and assess the perception of inclusion among Tunisian youth, radicalized and disengaged individuals. In this chapter, we describe the data collection and analysis process and the limitations of the methodology in reaching the research objectives.

In the second chapter, the research depicts a historical background of the Tunisian context before and after the revolution, portraying the characteristics of the educational system, employment, civic and political dynamics, and the evolution of religious teaching in Tunisia. Moreover, in this chapter, we outline the beginnings of violent extremist movements before and after the revolution through listing the different extremist jihadi groups and the rise of the extremist ideology in recent year. Going through the rout causes of radicalization and youth motives to support and join these groups.

The first part of the third chapter defines inclusion through literature from national and international interpretations. Focusing on breaking down the definition into multiple indicators to better conduct a thorough research and assess change in perceptions among youth, radicalized and disengaged individuals. The thorough exploration concludes that in Tunisia, a person is considered included if they are well educated, have a gainful job, religiously accepted, politically represented in the capital, civically active in their communities, and are not socially ostracized.

Additionally, reviewing the existing literature on Socio-economic vulnerability, political demobilization, educational difficulties, and politics in Tunisia, allowed building a comprehensive understanding of the topic as well as a cross-disciplinary analytical framework to better tackle the research question.

In the pursuit to study the link between youth exclusion and youth susceptibility to radical ideology in Tunisia, researchers investigated the perception of inclusion among youth in marginalized region, radicalized individuals and disengaged men and women.

Compelling differences in perceiving inclusion raised between the research subjects despite the similarities in specific details. Considering the psychological and cognitive sensitivities, the research deepened its investigation accordingly using a mix methodology with an inclination towards qualitative analysis.

The different perceptions and life stories inform on the importance of inclusion as an approach to prevent radicalization and a catalyst to encourage disengagement form violent extremist groups.

In the fourth chapter, the study tackles the adaptation of inclusive deradicalization and prevention programs in post-revolutionary Tunisia and expose the Tunisian experience with combatting violent extremism. Compared to the different approaches implemented in Algeria and Morocco, the study insists on contextualizing any effort to prevent radicalization and/or deradicalize extremists. These efforts are advised to this research recommendations.

The study instructs preventing violent extremism programs and deradicalization strategies to follow the research findings regarding the importance of specific perceptions in the effectiveness of their implementation.

Substantiate youth perceptions of education, religion and gainful employment is a key to successfully implement programs to prevent violent extremism whereas focusing on social acceptability of youth, the concept of religious teaching and providing gainful employment is the key to encourage and feed the process of disengagement among radicalized youth.

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