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Islamic State recruits more educated than average: World Bank study

The study also made clear that poverty and deprivation were not at the root of support for the group. Photograph: (Getty)

Washington, United States Oct 06, 2016, 05.22 AM (IST)

A new World Bank study suggests that Islamic State recruits are better educated than their average countryman. The revelation challenges the popular notion that the Syria- and Iraq-based extremist group attracts the poor and the marginalised.

In its recently released study, "Economic and Social Inclusion to Prevent Violent Extremism," the World Bank attempts to provide a socio-economic explanation for Islamic State's global support base. 

The study reveals that almost all the fighters joining Iraq and Syria-based forces of the IS were significantly better educated than the average citizen in their home countries, whether in Africa, Europe,  or the Middle East.

And that those signing up to become suicide bombers belonged to an even more educated class. The report says the data clearly indicates "poverty is not a driver of radicalisation into violent extremism." 

The World Bank study was based on a leaked Islamic State database of 331 recruits. Of them, only 17 per cent had not finished high school. The education of the recruits coming from eastern European was marginally below average. But "foreign recruits from the Middle East, North Africa and South and East Asia are significantly more educated than what is typical in their region," says the bank report.

Almost 25 per cent of them had had a university-level education. 

Furthermore, those volunteering to become suicide bombers -- one in nine -- were almost as educated as those seeking administerial roles. The report says, "The proportions of administrators but also of suicide fighters increase with education."

Approximately 30 per cent of the recruits indicated their preference for positions they wanted in Islamic State. Most of the recruits reportedly held jobs before joining the IS. However, many of those opting to become suicide bombers indicated that they were either unemployed or served the military in their home countries.  

Observing the recruiting trends of the extremist group, also known as Daesh, the report says, "We find that Daesh did not recruit its foreign workforce among the poor and less educated, but rather the opposite. Instead, the lack of economic inclusion seems to explain the extent of radicalisation into violent extremism."  The study says, "An important finding is that these individuals are far from being uneducated or illiterate. Most claim to have attended secondary school and a large fraction have gone on to study at university."


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