Family, friends recruit fighters to Boko Haram, new study reveals
03 October 2016, 17:50
Abuja - A new study has revealed that members of Nigerian extremist organization Boko Haram are most often recruited by friends and family and not members of mosques and madrasas, as was previously thought.
Conducted in December 2015, the study saw 119 former Boko Haram fighters being interviewed by operatives from Finn Church Aid (FCA), The International Dialogue Centre (KAICIID), The
Network of Religious and Traditional Peacemakers and the Citizen Research
In addition, researchers interviewed 60 representatives from Nigerian civil society
organizations in order to give the study context while analyzing the experiences shared by respondents.
"We always aim for primary source
research. Without real first-hand information it is impossible to understand
the complexity of the situation, or plan prevention or reintegration
initiatives," says Antti Pentikäinen, Executive Director of The
Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers.
"This research reinforces the key role of
religious leaders in defusing religious tensions and preventing radicalisation.
As influencers and role models they can prevent manipulation and misinterpretation
of religion by violent extremists. We believe it is crucial that religious
leaders are equipped with skills in interreligious dialogue and understanding," stresses Fahad Abualnasr, KAICIID Director General.
The results of the study have provided startling new insights into the structure of the Islamist sect, with data revealing that women play a bigger role in Boko Haram society than was previously considered.
Within the organization, both men and women provide
domestic support services, with the the research sample showing that women even surpassed their male
counterparts as recruiters (12 and seven) and as intelligence operatives (eight
"This large role of women in Boko Haram was
one of the most surprising results we got. For example, in Al Shabab women
basically do not have an active role at all," Mahdi Abdile says.
Contrary to common misconceptions, only 27% of respondents admitted to being introduced into the sect at mosques, with over 60% stating that family, friends and acquaintances had connected them to Boko Haram.
"In the pre-9/11 world, mosques and madrasas
used to be the place to get new recruits. Today that has changed”, says Mahdi
Abdile, Director of Research at FCA and at the Network for Religious and
Traditional Peacemakers, and the co-author of the study.
"The results of this study highlight the fact
that recruiters are adaptive to the tightening security environment, and more
than ever before, that women and young girls are increasingly being targeted
In addition to providing insight into the practices of recruiters, the study has also revealed the reasons behind civilians wanting to join the organization.
57% of former Boko Haram fighters identified the desire for revenge as
having a strong influence on their decision to join, or being the only reason
for it, with 43% of former fighters indicated that religion had a strong influence on
their decision to join the group.
23.5% of Boko Haram respondents told they had
joined Boko Haram to be respected and feared, while a further 17% stated a need
"Former fighters described a feeling of fear in Boko Haram when being a
member and after leaving the group. This fear should be countered by
reintegrating former Boko Haram fighters into society, and by involving local
communities in helping individuals to feel like a part of a strong
community," the study concludes.