Every month Gozamm will launch a new topic that tackles the deepest issues we face in our societies today. The matters will cover everything from parenting to the U.S. elections. The first conversation point is about ISIS and how to stop their successful recruiting.
Radical groups such as ISIS are using the emotional sentiments of connection and belonging, among other modalities, to lure new recruits, as well as how she thinks radical recruitment can be stopped. Premfors says that she found herself stricken by young people’s fascination with ISIS and the savage outcomes of their morbid ideology.
ISIS’ recruitment strategies draw seemingly normal young people from the safety and comfort of their homes to bring them front and center of a deadly and terrifying war, and Premfors says that she’s been trying to figure out what ISIS is selling the youth of the nation and the world and what society could be lacking that creates fertile ground for this manipulation. Premfors also acknowledges that while she is primarily focused on youth in the West, she is acutely aware of the same thing happening in much greater numbers with youth in North Africa, the Gulf Arab countries, the Indian Subcontinent, and the Far East.
“Firstly, ISIS has a very systematic and extremely effective approach to recruitment based on the initial promise of providing the most basic human needs of connection, love, and belonging.” If someone is between the ages of fifteen and twenty-five and somewhat lonely, misunderstood, rejected, and isolated, they are a prime target for ISIS recruiters. Their religious beliefs mean nothing at that point, according to Premfors. “You can be an atheist, Jew, Muslim, Christian, or Buddhist monk because ISIS doesn’t care as long as you are vulnerable. Those who feel marginalized want to matter, and that’s what ISIS makes happen for those they recruit,” said Premfors.
For instance, a 23-year old American Christian girl known as Alex was targeted by ISIS recruiters, showered with attention, and thrilled to make friends online. She’d never received so much attention, and the attention she received by ISIS was welcomed. Another example found by Premfors was of a 17-year old Muslim boy in the UK who went from not even having a Twitter account to suddenly having thousands of followers after being told by ISIS-linked people to open one. “He had a platform, people started to listen to him, and he started to matter. ISIS supporters, probably as part of an explicit strategy, have developed a system that makes people significant. It makes them important and they feel respected. It’s all fake and sometimes it has a deadly outcome,” said Premfors.
ISIS has been known to produce 30-40 high quality videos per day in various languages, and they have tens of thousands of Twitter and other social media accounts. By creating content and having a successful platform to publish their content, ISIS is successfully marketing their propaganda to an audience that includes people such as Alex and the 17-year old boy. ISIS sends these targets money, presents, and showers them with attention to make them feel accepted before recruiting them into war.
Before recruiting them, Premfors says, they introduce them to ideology, doctrine, heroism, and a new purpose. Charlie Winter, senior research associate at Georgia State University, said, “Ideology is very important, but it is also about how people feel about the society they live in.”
In the Saint Denis neighborhood where the French police killed the ringleader of the Paris massacres, some of the apartments were in such disrepair that they didn’t even have running water. Premfors said, “This is France, a leading world nation in the middle of a wealthy and advanced Europe. How do we protect our youth and keep them from being bait for ideology-based hunters?”
Premfors doesn’t believe that military action is a standalone solution. “We have to look at the vast depths of humanity to find out answers,” she said.
Many of these youth are going into war for ISIS to find it wasn’t what they expected and the consequences are too much to handle. “Only last month, I was deeply impacted by the story of an Austrian 17-year old girl who apparently was beaten to death because she wanted to be back with her family in Vienna. Her 15-year old friend was allegedly killed fighting in 2014. Then there’s the story about the three teenage girls from the UK who traveled to Syria never to be heard from again,” said Premfors.
She hopes that people can look out for each other, by seeing people, hearing people, and being curious without judgment. She also offers the recently launched Gozamm Life Design Manifesto at https://Gozamm.com for inspiration.