With youth radicalization on the rise, many may wonder why a young man or woman may accept leaving a well-off home to spend days and nights in vast forests of Gedo region and high-risk areas in Somalia. Well, without using so many words, radicalisers and recruiters tap on the void of an individual or shortcomings of their environment.
For the young people, a sense of belonging is crucial. During the growth years, identity is the most important part of them.
Terrorist groups are well aware of the fact and they capitalize on identity to garner following. After being radicalized, peers feel that they belong to a group that is doing something to correct a certain perceived injustice to them.
Peers going through radicalization have warning signs which are noticeable through the peer’s appearance, physical behavior, and online behavior. Some become more intentional and aggressive on religious matters often characterized by their dressing or changes in their overall appearance.
Some will change their religion but it is not necessarily a sign since most peers at some point will often look at every religion differently and seek to find which religion is best for them.
They become detached or distance themselves from their old friends and family often avoiding conversations. If they converse with their friends or family, they become more argumentative to those with opposing views from theirs and often see the opposition as less than they are.
In some cases they may even become violent and start engaging in fights in school, at home or even at social amenities. During this time, they even lose interest in school, their old hobbies and the social activities they enjoyed most such as soccer.
Another warning sign is where peers become more secretive and never want to discuss their whereabouts. It is the most noticeable sign, especially where the peer was previously talkative about how he/ she spent the day. Peers going through radicalization appear sympathetic to extremist groups and ideologies. They feel injustices in their everyday life and focus more on correcting and fighting them. They usually support the use of violence in the cause they believe in.
Peers going through radicalization also show signs in their online behavior which can be easily identified with keenness. First, they begin searching extremist online content and websites; they change their online identities including the names they originally used, their profile and their pictures. They then build more than one online identity and begin joining extremist online groups. Mostly, they will be on their devices surfing through extremist groups.
These groups include those bashing the government of the day, as well as those hailing atrocities committed by other terrorist groups.
Parents and guardians should be keen and they should bother checking what their children are consuming online as well as the amount of time spent on the internet. On the other hand, places, where these young ones hang out, should be of concern to parents so as to protect them from being recruited into terrorist groups.