Jihadis from the Lowlands Portraits of young Syria fighters from Belgium and the Netherlands
In March 2013 Dutch anti-terrorism agency the Nationaal Coördinator Terrorismebestrijding en Veiligheid (NCTV) announced that the country’s terrorism threat level had risen from ‘limited’ to ‘substantial’, the penultimate alarm phase. The most important reason for this was the increased number of youths travelling to Syria to take part in the armed conflict. According to the NCTV, there was an increased risk that on returning to the Netherlands, jihadi travellers would constitute a threat to national security because they would be traumatised and prepared to resort to violence to a significant extent. The days thereafter reports followed in quick succession on the number of youths leaving for jihadi areas from a variety of European nations (the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Denmark, Belgium). There was little clarity on the backgrounds (family, school, work, friends etc.) of these youths. Interviews were conducted with the families of those who had gone to Syria, to gain an insight into this. The research showed that the families the youths belong to were extremely diverse, as were the motives for why they had left.