Regionalization of violent jihadism and beyond:

Ekaterina Stepanova


In the early 21st century, violent extremism in general and Islamist violence in particular have been dominated by several jihadist movements that are regionally-based, primarily operate at regional level and have been undergoing the bottom-up regionalization process. All these movements are major combatants in the world’s most intense regional armed conflicts and the lead terrorist actors against non-combatants. All try to build Islamic states in their regions. They are distinct from both peripheral Islamist/separatist insurgencies fought at subnational level and from al-Qaeda as an inherently extraterritorial movement and ideology, with a fully globalized agenda. Against this background, Daesh, or the “Islamic State”, did not emerge as a global phenomenon, but as a regional movement in the Iraq-Syria context, driven by bottom-up regional dynamics and conflicts facilitated by collapse or weakness of states of the region, fueled by sectarianism and catalyzed by external interventions. The key question is: what turned this regional actor into the new cutting edge of “global jihad” as a movement and ideology? The article identifies three main trends in the evolution of transnational violent Islamism: bottom-up “regionalization”, network fragmentation of the “global jihad” movement and the intensification of targeted intra- and cross-regional jihadist “migration flows”. While inter-related, these trends are distinct, develop in parallel to one another, and only partially overlap. It is precisely where they overlap that the Daesh phenomenon has formed.  



fundamentalism, radicalization, ISIS,


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