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40% of Tunisia’s terrorists are university graduates – study

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Up to 40 percent of Tunisia’s terrorists hold a university degree, found a study conducted by the Tunisian Centre for Research and Studies on Terrorism (CTRET).

Based on the data analysed in the centre’s first study, entitled “Terrorism in Tunisia through court records”, university graduates make up the largest proportion of local terrorists.

Following that was those with high school diplomas, comprising 33 percent of the study’s sample, while 13 percent were graduates of vocational training centres and four percent were secondary school graduates.

The study involved a sample of over 1,000 terrorists and was based on 384 court records presented during the 2011-2015 period.

Speaking to Al-Monitor, CTRET researcher Iman Qazara said that the country’s rising youth unemployment rates were making them vulnerable to those recruiting for extremist groups.  

“The prevalence of the terrorism phenomenon among young people, university graduates, and women highlights the failure of the government in dealing with young people, as well as that of an educational system that [actually] led to higher unemployment levels among Tunisian university graduates,” he said.

This was reflected in the study, which revealed that most of the terrorists in the sample were aged between 25 to 29 years old (275 people), followed by those aged 30 to 34 (243), and those aged 18 to 24 (204).

Out of the sample, 965 were men and 35 were women. Additionally, more than half (536) were single and 239 were married, while those who were divorced or widowed represented only about 1 percent.

In an article published in February this year, the Wall Street Journal reported that Tunisia was “the largest source of foreign fighters heading to join Islamic State in Syria and Iraq”, but noted that the country was one of the most democratic and educated Arab nations.

In attempting to unravel the paradox, its author, Yaroslav Trofimov, found that democracy has failed to spur economic growth or curb rampant corruption in the country, leading to growing public discontent.

The study outlined three main methods used by jihadi groups to recruit new members: influence through individuals, social media, and traditional media.

“The influence exerted by individuals is considered the most crucial factor compared with the others, as more than one-third of jihadi members were influenced by jihadi leaders and preachers to join these groups. In recruiting new members, jihadis rely heavily on preachers and imams, as well as former leaders from terrorist organizations,” said the report.

CTRET was launched by the Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights last month with the aim to “prepare and publish statistics and studies on the terrorism phenomenon and follow up on its evolution in Tunisia, as well as to shed light on the terrorism distribution in terms of demographics, professions and age”.

Image via the Associated Press

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