A new trend shows that youths end up joining terror groups due to poor parental care and lack of proper guardianship. Societal disintegration leaves the youth highly susceptible to radicalisation. Family forms the basic yet most vital unit of society.
The concept of family as a social institution is under threat of extinction. Today it is commonly recognised that roughly 50 percent of marriages end in divorce. Notably, many family units which are focal points for mentoring the next generation into adulthood are disintegrating, leaving youths with no role models.
Due to economic hardships, parents work round the clock to fend for their families. They are hardly at home and when they get home, they are too consumed to pay attention to their teenagers. With such a vacuum to be filled up, the youth fall into the wrong hands. Social disruptions in families make them feel humiliated, threatened and helpless. Terrorist leaders seek support from such.
Families should be seen for what they are: a network that can facilitate or impede the spread of violent extremism. By engaging families, terrorist groups harness existing social networks for recruitment, reinforce bonds within the group, and gain access to additional sources of financing.
By recruiting family members, terrorist groups can avoid detection and capture by limiting contact with outsiders and increasing the costs of defection for individual members. Family members also provide an additional source of labour; women and children contribute terrorist groups through support roles, such as providing food or medical care and maintaining camps, as well as direct participation in attacks.
Families were a major focus of Islamic State’s recruitment efforts. The group succeeded in mobilizing entire families to join its so-called caliphate in Iraq and Syria. The role of women in populating the caliphate made their participation essential. It is estimated that 10,000 children under the age of five are currently being held in camps in Iraq. Kosovo recently repatriated 74 children of its foreign terrorist fighters. Marriages and remarriages within terrorist groups, whether voluntary or coerced, create ties between members. Remarriages mean that women and children continue to be provided for by the terrorist group, building loyalty and preventing defections.
To address this challenge, the Kenya government has adopted clear criteria to use in weighing individuals’ vulnerability to recruitment and in designing appropriate terrorism prevention programs that engage with at-risk youth and their families.