A team of researchers led by the National Counterterrorism Innovation, Technology, and Education (NCITE) Center has been selected by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to explore the urgent question: What is the best way to repatriate the U.S. spouses and minor children detained in Syria and Iraq who are connected to foreign fighters?
It’s a complicated question given humanitarian and national security concerns. As conditions in the detention camps are deteriorating and untenable, home countries including the U.S. have begun to receive detainees connected to foreign fighters with the Islamic State. This project takes a data driven approach. Researchers note an ineffectual response risks creating a new set of threats: women returning to join active extremist organizations or future radicalization of minors should trauma remain untreated. Researchers will find best practices for reintegration programming.
The two-year project is funded by a grant from the DHS Science and Technology Directorate. It will identify gaps in research and practice and inform future policy and research objectives that seek to support the successful reintegration of spouses and minors associated with the Islamic State. In doing so, the research will help prevent any related generational cycles of U.S. persons engaged in violent extremism.
Led by Austin Doctor, principal investigator and NCITE researcher, the team will carry out field work in Iraq, where some detention camps are located, the Netherlands, which has experience in reintegrating family members of foreign fighters, and Nebraska, where there are experts in refugee resettlement and youth reintegration in juvenile justice cases.
"We're talking about a sizable population of U.S. women and children detained abroad, who, if this issue is not resolved, are at risk for radicalization and continued trauma."
- Austin Doctor, Ph.D., assistant professor of political science at UNO and NCITE researcher
NCITE will collaborate with The George Washington University Program on Extremism and International Centre for Counter-Terrorism — The Hague to study how U.S. persons can be repatriated and reintegrated effectively. Collaborators include:
- Austin Doctor, assistant professor of political science at the University of Nebraska at Omaha and NCITE researcher. Expertise: Militant leaders, leaders who commit war crimes, victims of war crimes, and foreign fighters.
- Haroro Ingram, senior research fellow at The George Washington University Program on Extremism. Expertise: Propaganda and charismatic leadership in nonstate political movements, militant Islamist propaganda targeting English-speaking audiences, and strategic communications in national security operations, strategy, and policy, particularly in the areas of counterterrorism and countering violent extremism.
- Devorah Margolin, director of strategic initiatives and senior research fellow at The George Washington University Program on Extremism. Expertise: Violent Islamist groups in the Levant, terrorism governance, terrorism financing, role of propaganda, countering violent extremism, and the role of women in violent extremism.
- Omar Mohammed, historian from Mosul, Iraq, now in exile in Europe, who blogged under the name “Mosul Eye,” to report on life under the Islamic State’s rule. He also serves as research fellow at The George Washington University Program on Extremism and teaches Middle East History and Cultures at Sciences Po University. Expertise: History, local historiographies, microhistories. Mohammed will serve as consultant.
- Tanya Mehra, senior researcher and Programme Lead Rule of Law Responses to Terrorism at the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism – The Hague. Expertise: rule of law approach to terrorism, human rights, repatriation of foreign fighters, prosecution of terrorism cases, administrative measures, collecting (battlefield) evidence.