David Wearing writes: The results of new research reported by the Guardian this week on young westerners who have travelled to Syria to fight in the civil war provide some fascinating insights into their motivations, their interactions with pro-jihadi communities online, and the groups they join when they arrive in the war zone.
According to researchers at the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence at King’s College London, many of these young men are driven by what, in their minds, are humanitarian concerns for their co-religionists and the Syrian people. An article by George Monbiot comparing them to volunteers in the Spanish civil war was apparently very popular among these foreign fighters. But the fact that most volunteers (among whom the British are the largest contingent) appear to be joining the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis), or Jabhat al-Nusra to a lesser extent, shows that far from helping the anti-Assad cause, they are probably helping him to stay in power, and imposing yet more suffering on the Syrian population. [Continue reading…]