A National Strategic Framework for Countering Violent Extremism in Jordan

Following the uprisings in the Arab world, the region has lurched into a period of massive change and instability. An unfortunate consequence of this change has been the rise and proliferation of militant groups such as ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham) and Jubhat al-Nusra in Iraq and Syria.  These militant groups successfully recruit members from the region and beyond, fueling conflict in countries that have witnessed unrest, such as Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Iraq, and Syria. Although Jordan has long been seen as a regional hub of stability and security, especially by its Western allies, it increasingly exhibits symptoms of the long-standing pressures exerted upon it by the surrounding conflicts, resulting refugee crises, and pre-existing domestic challenges. Jordan’s hypothetical fall into instability could have catastrophic consequences for the region, exacerbating the crises in Syria and Iraq, empowering ISIS and other militant groups, and threatening regional and global security. In response, this article offers a general framework for the expansion of the country’s nascent Counter Violent Extremism (CVE) program, including both preventative and remedial measures. Beginning with an overview of the processes of radicalization and de-radicalization, this article proceeds with a brief discussion of Jordan’s current situation before synthesizing scholarly articles and analyses of other CVE programs in order to establish a framework to guide Jordan’s developing CVE interventions.

Ghimar Deeb
Jeffrey Woodham
Mia Chin
Sawsan Gharaibeh
June 06, 2016


Bordered by Syria, Iraq, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Palestine, Jordan’s location makes it vulnerable to the effects of volatile regional conflicts and violent extremism.1 Not only is Jordan challenged by regional instability, it is also crippled by high unemployment rates, dependency on foreign aid and remittances, and strained natural resources.2 Despite being a regional hub of stability in the Middle East, the severity of Jordan’s vulnerability to violent extremism, and its underlying conditions, remains overlooked. Estimates from 2013 placed the number of Jordanians actively taking part in violent extremist groups in Syria as high as 2,089, and 2015 estimates ranked Jordan as the highest foreign-fighter contributor per capita in the world to the conflict.3 These statistics do not reflect the number of radicals and individuals in Jordan at-risk of joining, or linked with, violent extremist groups. With an alarming number of foreign fighters, disjointed counter-violent-extremism (CVE) strategies, and inadequate facilities to host and de-radicalize violent extremists, the return of thousands of violent extremists poses an even greater risk to the stabilization of Jordan with disastrous consequences for the region and worldwide.

This article develops a framework for Jordan to expand its CVE program and implement a three-pronged program focusing on counter-radicalization, de-radicalization, and reintegration at the local government level, with a focus on youth. Using government data and laws, supplemented by pertinent scholarly literature, we analyze the current CVE laws, national strategy, and implementing agencies of Jordan. The article includes a review of academic literature in the fields of radicalization and CVE in order to holistically understand the drivers of radicalization and violent extremism, and the best means of combating them. Based on this review, we identify key thematic components for a comprehensive CVE strategy including preventative and remedial programs. We develop tangible strategies Jordan can use in programming and implementing successful CVE interventions within an analysis of Jordan’s social, economic, and political context.

There are two forms of combatting violent extremism: counter-radicalization, which is preventitive, and de-radicalization, which is remedial. Counter-radicalization programs seek to mitigate the factors that could lead to radicalization in a community and thereby prevent the potential transition to violent extremism in the first place. For the purposes of this article, we will adhere to the definition of radicalization given by Horgan: “the social and psychological process of incrementally experienced commitment to extremist political or religious ideology… [r]adicalization may not necessarily lead to violence, but is one of several risk factors required for this.”4 De-radicalization interventions occur after an individual has already been radicalized and attempt to prevent an individual from returning to violent extremism. Such interventions consist of three steps: disengagement, de-radicalization, and reintegration.

Disengagement is the process of shifting one’s behavior to abstain from violent activities and withdraw from a violent extremist group.5 Disengagement only includes the cessation of participating in violent extremist activities and does not imply that the individual no longer adheres to a radical ideology. Though disengagement is an important step in combatting violent extremism, it is, in and of itself, an insufficient one, as disengaged individuals who remain radicalized are at high risk of returning to violent extremism.6 De-radicalization is the process of actually instigating a shift in the beliefs of the individual such that they disengage from a radical ideology.7

This article will develop a joint approach to countering violent extremism in Jordan, incorporating both counter and de-radicalization strategies. The implementation of such an approach will help Jordan to mitigate the impact of already radicalized individuals engaging in violent extremism while simultaneously minimizing the number of individuals who join violent extremist groups. Doing so will not only reduce the risk of violent extremism in Jordan, and thereby ensure long-term stability, but it will also save Jordanian and non-Jordanian lives by limiting the impact of violent extremism regionally and globally.

While this article strives to propose comprehensive and appropriate strategies for CVE, there are limitations to the specificity of study due to insufficient information. Substantive information about Jordan’s CVE programs, including the Community Peace Centre (CPC) and the newly established Directorate of Combating Extremism and Violence, is not publicly available. It remains unclear how many violent extremists are currently enrolled in prison-based de-radicalization programs, and how detainees have benefitted from the program. Furthermore, it is unclear if there are criteria for selecting participants, a de-radicalization methodology, or an exit strategy to facilitate reintegration into communities used by the CPC. Information that details the human, technical, and financial capacities of the Directorate of Combating Extremism and Violence is not publicly available. As of now, the directorate’s program implementation strategy remains unknown.


The rising threat of violent extremism in recent years has corresponded with the proliferation of literature on radicalization, violent extremism, and, to a lesser extent, the means of combatting them. Scholarly discussion of the subject has largely focused on the process of radicalization and the various factors contributing to it. General consensus holds that there is no universal pathway to radicalization and violent extremism; rather, there exists a diverse array of political, economic, psychosocial, cultural, and ideological factors that can contribute to varying degrees at varying stages to an individual’s radicalization and adoption of violent extremism.8 Nevertheless, debates around which of those factors are most important continue to invigorate
the discussion.

Driven by income inequality, state instability, unemployment, lack of political participation, state-citizen distrust, social marginalization, and low self-esteem, youth constitute the majority of people who join radical and violent extremist groups.9 The factors driving an individual to radicalize and join a violent extremist group are known as “push” and “pull” factors: push factors are circumstances that make an individual’s current lifestyle unattractive, such as social marginalization, government repression, or unemployment; pull factors are circumstances that make a violent extremist ideology or group attractive to an individual, such as a sense of belonging, financial incentives, or the desire for adventure or glory.10 These two sets of factors work together to catalyze the process of radicalization and adoption of
violent extremism.

Jean Luc Marret, a researcher specializing in political violence and terrorism in the Arab world, does not identify any particular factor as being the most influential. Still, he argues that young people are likely to join an extremist group for social or psychological reasons rather than ideological ones; ideologies are subsequently adopted as a result of continued exposure or as a means of justifying past ,actions.11 This conclusion is substantiated by Githens-Mazer and Lambert, two political scientists  who in their article seek to correct unsupported assumptions that pervade the global discussion on radicalization through two case studies. In the article, they undermine the commonly assumed correlation between the adoption of, or attachment to, radical ideology and the transition to violent extremism.12 Rather than discussing the factors pushing individuals toward radicalization, Iannaccone and Berman discuss what might pull an individual toward violent extremist groups. Still, they likewise minimize the impact of militant ideology, arguing instead that the success of violent extremist groups in recruiting new members is a result of their ability to inflame religious tensions, improve social services, encourage private enterprise, and work where governments and economies function poorly.13

Based on an overview of counter and de-radicalization programs in Germany, the United Kingdom, and Denmark, Defraoui and Uhlmann argue that radicalization is a product of socio-economic and political marginalization. They cite a need among youth to develop an identity, combat perceived injustices as well as the development of a jihadi subculture and an “innate’ attraction to violence.14 Botha, in his study of Kenyan youth who have joined al-Shabaab, frames radicalization within the context of political socialization, the process by which an individual gradually develops a frame of reference informing his or her behavior and worldview.15 For Botha, this is especially important in the context of Kenya, where he claims religious and ethnic identities take precedence over a unified national identity and make possible the radicalization of individuals on the basis of group identity and perceived group injustices. His interviews further suggest that Kenyans joining al-Shabaab were not driven by economic concerns, instead the primary driver was the lack of access to quality education.

On the other hand, Hegghammer, in his study of the recruitment and radicalization of Saudi youth by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, notes of the recruitment and radicalization of Saudi youth, while unemployment was likely a factor in radicalization, politics and ideology played a more important role than socioeconomic factors, with social networks and group dynamics being one of the ultimate deciding factors in whether or not an individual was radicalized.16 Overall, these studies emphasize the need to address more than just socioeconomic circumstances in designing CVE interventions; ideological and psychosocial factors also play important roles.

Different understandings of what factors shape radicalization also inform the debate over how to combat it. Although ideology has not necessarily been identified as the main catalyst for the adoption of violent extremism, Rabasa et al. argue that, particularly in the case of Islamist extremism, attachment to religious ideology is the primary obstacle to the de-radicalization of violent extremists. It is only in challenging this ideology collectively or individually that counter- and de-radicalization programs will succeed.17 As previously noted, Jordan has already begun to develop programs to counter ideology through the CPC. Still, most scholars maintain that counter- and de-radicalization programs that focus on ideology are not comprehensive enough.

Since youth largely radicalize for psychological and social reasons, it follows that both preventative and remedial measures must address the original issues that led to radicalization and the adoption of violent measures in the first place.18 Euer et al. identify four main “factors of resilience” for youth that should be fostered in counter-radicalization programs: a strong educational and residential climate, including a culture of autonomy and open-mindedness; an emphasis on the value of success and “stable” religious values, and an environment supporting “positive” hobbies; personal resources, consisting of cognitive abilities, active problem-solving capabilities, confidence, and self esteem; and a strong and diverse social network, with strong relationships with authority figures in the community.19

In addition, existing literature emphasizes the importance of the individualization of interventions, given the unique circumstances influencing each case of radicalization.20 Another common thread is full community engagement and inclusion as a means of maximizing the success of a program, with Githens-Mazer and Lambert going so far as to argue that marginalized communities in particular are best equipped to combat the radicalization and adoption of violent extremism by individuals amongst them.21

These factors are particularly concerning for Jordan, whose population of 6.6 million is overwhelmingly young, with 58 percent of the population under 25.22 Furthermore, Jordan’s unemployment rate for those between 15 and 24 years of age is 27.2 percent as of the third quarter of 2015.23 By gender, 25.5 percent of men and and 52.6 percent of women are unemployed.24 Additionally, only 25 percent of the population within this age group were economically active in 2014.25

Jordanian communities also suffer from insufficient natural resources, infrastructure, and social services. The influx of Syrian and Iraqi refugees have largely settled in Jordan’s most vulnerable communities, primarily in the governorates of Amman (32.7 percent), Irbid (20.7 percent), Mafraq (11.3 percent), and Zarqa (7.5 percent).26 This rapid population growth has increased job competition, overburdened infrastructure, and strained basic services already pushed to the limits, further exacerbating frustrations of marginalized Jordanians. According to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), Jordan is the second largest host of refugees per capita globally, at 87 refugees per 1,000 people,27 with 635,324 registered refugees as of January 2016.28 This number does not include Syrians in Jordan who have not registered with UNHCR. The Jordanian government has estimated that this number to be approximately 1.4 million Syrians including unregistered refugees.29


As one of the first major steps in developing a counter-radicalization program in Jordan, the Ministry of Interior established a Directorate for Combating Extremism and Violence.30 Additionally, the CPC, under the Public Security Directorate (PSD), coordinates with local communities and civil society to counter extremist ideology through providing training and facilitating dialogues.32 The CPC develops the capacity of its staff through specialized courses and collaboration with international partners to develop means of combating extremist ideology. Under the Ministry of Interior, the  PSD has authority over non-terrorist related crimes, and supports the General Intelligence Department. While the Directorate for Combating Extremism and Violence and the CPC are important steps in CVE, to the knowledge of the authors, neither of these programs has within their purview the responsibility or capacity to address the factors previously identified as being the main drivers of radicalization. This section will provide guidance to assist Jordan in further developing its capacity to counter-radicalization and thereby prevent violent extremism.

National Strategy

While many countries have designed national counter-radicalization interventions, they have often resulted in inciting anger and frustration in those they are trying to help. Denmark has implemented a national program focusing on local communities identified as radical, but its strategy has been criticized for stigmatizing and further marginalizing those communities deemed “suspicious.”33 In public meetings and press releases, Danish Muslim organizations have expressed feelings of being targeted and discriminated against by the counter-terrorism framework in Denmark.34 “Prevent,” a component of the United Kingdom’s national CVE strategy, works with police, local governments, and NGOs to challenge radical Islamism through supporting individuals at-risk of radicalization and strengthening the capacities of communities to prevent radicalization and resolve grievances that violent extremist groups might exploit.35 However, like Denmark, the UK has likewise been criticized for further isolating targeted communities.36 Moreover, “Prevent” has had limited reach, with only 20 percent of projects working with individuals “at-risk” and only 3 percent of individuals “glorifying or justifying violent extremism.”37 This reflects local authorities’ poor understanding of target communities, with many hiring external consultants to conduct mapping and needs assessments rather than cultivating and building relationships with local communities themselves.38

This highlights the need for Jordan, when designing nationwide strategies, to ensure that they not only have a comprehensive understanding of the needs of communities, but that they also use the programming phase as an integral first step in cultivating and strengthening ties with local community members. Furthermore, as can be learned from “Prevent,” the national strategy should accurately address relevant and urgent national challenges and include avenues for communication among the national, governorate, municipality, and community levels.

The Jordanian government should also support local governments to develop and implement customized programs. Since radicalization is driven by situationally dependent factors, it follows that local governments are best situated to identify which factors make their own communities vulnerable and the appropriate means to address them. With such a detailed understanding, they would be able to identify local organizations with which to partner in the development and implementation of programming, as well as gain a more immediate knowledge of shifting circumstances that could affect it. Furthermore, the successful implementation of such programming relies on the trust of communities. Local governments are better situated to foster the trust of their communities and engage with them throughout CVE interventions. Should local governments lack this trust or open channels of communication with their communities, the national government can provide the skills and tools necessary to nurture citizen-municipality trust.

Finally, the Jordanian government should establish a mechanism for municipalities and governorates to share best practices. They should develop a national database to monitor and evaluate the progress of programs and identify and track indicators. In taking immediate action, the government needs to target the municipalities and governorates most vulnerable to violent extremism. However, it is crucial that programs avoid exacerbating pre-existing tensions and feelings of marginalization. Identifying and treating communities as radical can stigmatize those communities, further alienating them from the rest of the country. This may also anger communities who need assistance but are not identified as “radical,” which can in turn fuel radicalization and violent extremism. Thus, the government must develop a strategy that can treat all Jordanian communities.

Local Implementation

While there needs to be national consensus in designing a CVE strategy, drivers of radicalization and violent extremism will differ depending on the local context. Counter-radicalization strategies should be designed and implemented by local governorates with the inclusion of community police forces, youth, community leaders, civil society organizations, and schools. Additionally, in order for communities to trust the stakeholders implementing the CVE strategies, there needs to be transparency and clear means of communication for community members to voice their ideas and concerns. On the local level, communities need to be given space to identify and discuss grievances, real or perceived, that make them vulnerable to the manipulative tactics of violent-extremist-group recruitment efforts.

Another important step in local-level CVE is developing perceived community safety and trust between the police and public. It is widely accepted by scholars that community policing with consent, and through communities, is the most effective approach, and has the greatest reach in communities.39 The United Kingdom, despite its programming flaws, and Australia have effectively used such approaches to counterterrorism.40 In Australia, the Community Engagement Unit of the Counter Terrorism and Special Tactics Command and the local Muslim community successfully managed to develop trust, confidence, and cooperation with one another, allowing the New South Wales police to effectively work with communities in identifying youth at risk of radicalization and intervene.41 Using similar methods, local police in Jordan can establish relationships with local communities using a “criminal justice model,” as opposed to a “war on terror” model, that builds citizen trust and confidence, reduces fear of crime, and bolsters community consent.42 In doing so, there needs to be direct contact and genuine partnership between communities and police, enabling police actors to be the primary entity to intervene.

However, community policing extends beyond relationships between community and police forces. The inclusion of communities and social networks is a commonly recurring theme in literature on countering violent extremism. Weine et al. argue that building community resilience is a matter of sustaining and strengthening protective resources in all areas of the community through increasing protection for adolescents and young adults, increasing awareness of parents, and developing community strategies to address threats. Euer et al. likewise emphasize the need to include the entire social environment in combating violent extremism, including schools, work, family, and friends.43 In their study of the role of friends in CVE, Williams et al. note that they are often best positioned to notice the early signs of radicalization in an individual, although the extent to which they identify with that individual may limit their ability to recognize those signs or willingness to intervene.44 Furthermore, they suggest that if a peer cares greatly about their relationship with an at-risk individual, they might be less likely to intervene. Their emphasis on the potential important role of friendship in identifying and addressing radicalization corresponds with Euer et al.’s insistence that a strong and large social network is one of the main factors for youth resilience.  Forming strong relationships with a variety of individuals will increase the likelihood that signs of radicalization will be recognized and addressed early on.45

Finally, strong relationships with family are also a commonly suggested means of preventing radicalization. Still, in an analysis of the role of families in counter- and de-radicalization, Spalek argues that even if families are able to provide a supportive environment for counter- and de-radicalization, safeguards must be in place.46 There is the potential for tensions within the family concerning whether or not radicalization needs to be addressed in the first place, and if so, how to address it. Though family members are capable of helping prevent radicalization, particularly female family members, they are generally unaware of the process of radicalization occurring within their family. Thus, while they represent an effective potential check, they are by no means a panacea.

This highlights the need for local Jordanian governments to provide youth and families with the skills to approach individuals in the process of radicalization and effectively intervene. They need to build spaces for friends and family to engage in sensitive dialogue with one another, and with local police forces, in order to understand the legal ramifications of radicalization and the best methods of intervention. In that vein, communities need to foster an environment open to voicing concerns about radicalization such that friends and family do not avoid intervening for fear of legal or social retribution for themselves or the individual in question.

Counter-radicalization programs need to be designed with built-in flexibility to address the needs of beneficiaries. As previously mentioned, each individual’s path to violent extremism is specific to his or her circumstances. Even if a group of individuals within a community suffers from the same set of grievances, the extent to which each of those factors affects that individual and drives his or her transition to radicalization varies from person to person. Moreover, the means of addressing those grievances is case-specific. Thus, local Jordanian governments should include in deciding what needs are most urgent and in defining goals and objectives. Local initiatives should be developed collectively by a committee representative of the community. This process not only makes programs more effective, but also provides individuals with a sense of inclusion, the opportunity to interact with community members of different social positions, and the opportunity to actively engage in the decisionmaking process. Lastly, local governments need to justify programming and implementation to community members, and means of communication should be developed for local community members to raise concerns, complaints, and ideas.


As previously discussed, comprehensive de-radicalization programs include three components: disengagement, rehabilitation, and reintegration. The first step is disengagement, or the cessation of violent extremist behavior and withdrawal from violent extremist groups. This process is also a function of push and pull factors. In this case, push factors are aspects of the organization that encourage an individual to leave, such as disillusionment with the group’s ideology, frustration with the group’s hierarchy, or an inability to cope with a new, harsh lifestyle.47 Pull factors are aspects outside of the violent extremist group that might attract an individual to disengage, such as employment opportunities, supportive family or friends, education, or the desire to start a family.48

Rabasa et al. reframe these factors as affective, pragmatic, and ideological commitments to a violent extremist group.49 Affective commitments are the emotional attachments to a group; pragmatic commitments are the factors that make disengagement from a group impractical, such as material reward or threats of violence; and  ideological commitments are the individual’s adherence to a set of beliefs that justify his or her actions.50 Disengagement can be facilitated through collaboration between local police forces and ex-violent extremists. Indonesia has successfully modeled how ex-violent extremists can be used to denounce violent extremist groups and ideology through books and cassette tapes, facilitate the disengagement of violent extremists, and serve as interlocutors between police forces and violent extremists in police raids and negotiations.51 Once violent extremists have decided to disengage, Indonesian officials facilitate the process with logistical and financial support. In addition to working with ex-violent extremists, developing and advertising pull factors for returnees could increase the likelihood of disengagement.

In order to ensure continued disengagement, Dugas and Kruglanski and Rabasa et al. insist upon the importance of changing ideology, or de-radicalization, of radicalized individuals.52 Since de-radicalization programs primarily target returned or former violent extremists, they generally are implemented in prisons or prison-like environments. As such, the role of the prison environment in CVE programs needs to be addressed. While much of the discussion of prison radicalization has relied on the assumption that they serve as hotbeds of recruitment for violent extremists, Jones maintains that prisons do not necessarily act as such.53 According to Jones, radicalization takes place most often in situations where violent extremists form the “in-group,” and extreme social pressures common to prisons encourage less radicalized individuals to conform to the majority. Prison-based radicalization is also a function of prisoner and prison-staff views of the radicalized individuals. In situations where there is general disapproval of violent extremism, radicals are more likely to attempt to conform to the prison culture for survival than propagate their own views. If the contrary is the case, then respected radicals are likely to have an environment conducive to radicalization with the support of prison guards. Radicals with such influence can not only engage in recruitment, but also prevent inmates from participating in de-radicalization programs. Finally, overall prison conditions can affect the likelihood of prison radicalization. Just like outside of prisons, radicalization in prisons is not necessarily a product of an individual’s attraction to a particular ideology, but can also result from a variety of grievances. Poor conditions and treatment in overcrowded prisons can thus generate a population vulnerable to radicalization.

In prison psychological rehabilitation programs, psychologists work with detainees to discuss and reflect on their emotional state without trying to alter their values with the goal of developing skills to manage their emotions, as well as cognitive tools.54 A key part of Singapore’s de-radicalization program, similar to Indonesia’s program, is its focus on strengthening the trust and relationships between detainees and case officers. This method has proven to be useful with detainees gradually realizing the process of their radicalization.55 Based on Singapore’s experience, detainees can be reluctant to comply with the program if they think that the rehabilitation is unnecessary or that they have been unjustly persecuted.56 Furthermore, prison-based reform programs must develop a comprehensive theological model that violent extremists will find credible, and methods to engage and develop their trust.

In Jordan, the CPC focuses on replacing radical thought with moderate interpretations of Islam. Singapore’s program is of particular interest, as it includes a theological dialogue model, with the assistance of the Religious Rehabilitation Group (RRG), which includes religious teachers and scholars. The RRG develops religious counseling manuals and guidelines and conducts trainings for 38 counselors from local madrasas and international Islamic institutions.57 Singapore’s religious counseling aims to develop detainees’ abilities to tolerate secular and multi-religious societies. Between April 2004 and September 2006, the RRG conducted more than 500 counseling sessions with Jemaah Islamiyyah detainees. While “hard core” detainees remained unmoved by the rehabilitation efforts, other detainees displayed changes in beliefs and behavior and expressed remorse for their involvement between six and 12 months after commencing RRG sessions.58

In addition to de-radicalization, scholars emphasize reintegration, or the provision of employment, education, and community support following disengagement, in order to maximize the success of de-radicalization. Providing realistic alternatives and future prospects outside of the violent extremist group will make the prospect of disengagement more attractive and reduce the likelihood of recidivism.59 In Northern Ireland, an early release scheme allowing violent extremists to reintegrate into society and work while on parole proved unsuccessful, with ex-paramilitaries unable to attain work due to extensive gaps of unemployment, inadequate skills, and, most importantly, criminal records.60 In an analysis conducted by prisoner welfare organizations, often staffed by former violent extremists, they found that prisoners would need to obtain skills in “pre-employment, business planning, and social skills development” to successfully reintegrate into society.61 Consequently, Maze, the largest prison in Northern Ireland, provided training courses in pre-employment, business planning, and social skills development by individuals and professionally trained organizations. Barriers to employment and livelihood for ex-violent extremists only risk undermining the benefits of de-radicalization programs and increase the potential of recidivism. As such, similar courses in Jordan’s prison-based de-radicalization program could facilitate a smooth integration process if strategically integrated into the rehabilitation program prior to the inmate’s release.

In designing criteria for release from a de-radicalization program, it is important that each detainee is reviewed on an individual basis. There is no one single criteria for determining if an individual is ready to exit and reintegrate into society. For example, in Singapore, the Internal Security Department (ISD) assesses a detainee using feedback from religious counselors, prison wardens, psychologists, and case officers. The ISD also take into consideration the degree to which the individual was engaged in violent extremism. Lastly, they submit the recommendation to be approved by the Minister of Home Affairs and the Cabinet; upon approval from the Cabinet, the individual can be released.62 There is evidence to suggest that Singapore’s rehabilitation program has been successful. In 2002, 73 violent extremists were detained: by 2008, only 23 detainees remained incarcerated, with 41 individuals released from the program.63 According to violent extremist expert Rohan Gunaratna, Singapore’s detainee rehabilitation programs are “working” and have an exceptionally low
recidivism rate.64

Finally, de-radicalization programs also need to address the effects of violent extremism on an individual’s friends and family. In Singapore, community organizations collaborate in providing support to families of detainees. For example, the Aftercare Services Group provides practical and emotional support to families to ease the resentment they might have towards the detainee.65 Aftercare caseworkers provide counseling, financial assistance, and skill training for families of detainees and free or subsidized education for their children. In addition, caseworks arrange mentoring for children, employment assistance, logistical help, and post-release support.66 With attention to future risk, provisions for families are intended to prevent a second generation of individuals from becoming violent extremists.67 Furthermore, families play critical roles in determining if detainees will participate in rehabilitation programs. If they encourage cooperation it may increase the likelihood the detainee will participate; however, if they discourage the detainee, there is a likelihood they will not participate.68

With thousands of violent extremists engaged in Syria, Jordan urgently needs to develop its capacity to house returnees and effectively de-radicalize them in correctional facilities. The country lacks a comprehensive program that addresses de-radicalization, including disengagement, rehabilitation, and reintegration. There is currently no national strategy for disengaging radicals and violent extremists abroad. In addition to strengthening its CVE strategy, Jordan needs to develop the means for disengaging radicals through the dissemination of credible and accessible religious teachings and disengagement strategies. Additionally, the CPC is the sole provider of a de-radicalization program that concentrates on de-radicalization of violent extremist inmates.69 It is unclear if the CPC provides de-radicalization programs for all incarcerated violent extremists, what the content of those programs is, how many violent extremists are in prisons, or if violent extremists are segregated from other inmates.

Jordan needs to address all three steps of de-radicalization in order to address the threat of violent extremism. In order to bolster the work of Jordanian CVE efforts, local police forces should establish a network of trustworthy ex-violent extremists to collaborate in designing and implementing disengagement strategies. Furthermore, the country needs to incentivize radicals to disengage and reform by establishing a comprehensive exit program in collaboration with communities, civil society organizations, and local governments that provides alternatives for a life after prison.

Second, it must ensure that its de-radicalization programs include psychological and social support for individuals. Given Jordan’s diverse religious landscape, religious tolerance and the ability for individuals to critically discuss their religious interpretations and beliefs are crucial for de-radicalization. Jordan should adopt similar strategies to those of Singapore by developing unified manuals and guidelines for counselors, including references to religious texts developed by respected teachers and scholars. Counselors need to receive training from de-radicalization experts in teaching and facilitation. Just as effective disengagement programs leverage ex-militants and radicals to gain legitimacy and trust with violent extremists, rehabilitation would be strengthened with the inclusion of ex-violent extremists in the programming and implementation process of theological dialogue, as facilitators for individual and group dialogues, and as mediators between local authorities, communities, and violent extremist inmates.

Finally, families and communities should be engaged throughout the process of de-radicalization to maximize chances of success for the individual. Strengthening families and communities and including them throughout the de-radicalization process will ease the reintegration of individuals into the community. After exiting the prison de-radicalization program, ex-violent extremists need to maintain relationships and regular communication with their caseworkers, local authorities, and mentors. Finally, in line with the disengagement incentives suggested earlier, local governments, following national strategies and resources, should provide education and employment opportunities for ex-militants and their families. Unless prisons have the financial and institutional resources to indefinitely host radicals and violent extremists, immediate efforts needs to be made to guarantee permanent disengagement, complete ideological rehabilitation, and successful reintegration into society.


With Jordan in the formative stages of designing and implementing its CVE strategy, there is an urgent need to develop innovative and effective programs. This article has argued that an ideal model for CVE in Jordan would include preventative and remedial interventions. While the government should develop a national CVE strategy, it also needs to empower local communities to design and implement appropriate interventions in order to ensure the success of counter-radicalization programs and de-radicalization approaches including disengagement, de-radicalization, and reintegration phases. Jordan needs to incentivize disengagement by working with former violent extremists and disseminating information highlighting relevant push and pull factors. For effective de-radicalization, the government needs to build the capacity of prisons to house extremists, incorporate psychological counseling and vocational training, and include families and communities. Finally, former extremists require continuous support from a network of caseworkers, mentors, and ex-violent extremists to help them to successfully reintegrate into their communities.

Designing a comprehensive CVE strategy for Jordan is beyond the scope of this article; however, it is the hope of the authors that this may provide a framework to guide the development of such a plan. In order to do so, the government must work with the appropriate agencies, such as the Ministry of Interior, CPC, Directorate for Combating Extremism and Violence, and other relevant governmental and nongovernmental organizations, to identify national and local requirements. They need to engage with other governments who have effectively responded to violent extremism and discuss what strategies and approaches might be relevant to use in Jordan. They must also assist local communities in conducting in-depth needs assessments in order to facilitate the design of appropriate local counter-terrorism approaches as well as aid local governments and police forces in strengthening relationships with their communities, with a particular focus on youth.

The need for effective CVE strategies also calls for further research in the field. A small study conducted by Mercy Corps has suggested that social media, skewed perceptions of masculinity, and mothers play important roles in determining whether or not young Jordanians engage in violent extremism.70 All of these suggestions offer worthy topics of research to better understand the various forces encouraging youth to adopt violent extremism and the best means of combating these forces. Research should expand on circumstances that might make different push and pull factors more influential, incorporating effective methods for incorporating friends and family into counter- and de-radicalization interventions, the effects of violent extremism on an individual’s family and friends, how interventions can most effectively disengage violent extremists, and how to integrate youth and ex-violent extremists in the programming and implementation of CVE strategies. In designing, implementing, monitoring, and evaluating nationally supported, locally designed CVE interventions, Jordan can strengthen its response to violent extremists groups while continuously improving upon its interventions, and in doing so can serve as a model for CVE interventions worldwide.


1 Country Reports on Terrorism, U.S. Bureau of Counterterrorism, June 2015, http://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/crt/2014/.

2 Emmanuel Comolet, “Jordan: The Geopolitical Service Provider,” The Brookings Institution, February 2014. http://www.brookings.edu/research/papers/2014/02/jordan-geopolitical-service-comolet.

3 “ICSR Insight: Up to 11,000 Foreign Fighters in Syria; Steep Rise among Western Europeans,” International Centre for the Study of Radicalization and Political Violence, December 2013; Peter R. Neumann, “Foreign Fighter Total in Syria/Iraq Now Exceeds 20,000; Surpasses Afghanistan Conflict in the 1980s,” International Centre for the Study of Radicalization and Political Violence, January 2015.

4 John Horgan and Kurt Braddock, “Rehabilitating the Terrorists?: Challenges in Assessing the Effectiveness of De-radicalization Programs,” Terrorism and Political Violence 22, no. 2 (2010): 267-91.

5 Angel Rabasa , Stacie L. Pettyjohn, Jeremy J. Ghez, and Christopher Boucek, Deradicalizing Islamist Extremists, (Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2010), 1-31.

6 Ibid., 1-31.

7 Ibid., 1-31.

8 Kamaldeep S. Bhui, Madelyn H. Hicks, Myrna Lashley, and Edgar Jones, “A Public Health Approach to Understanding and Preventing Violent Radicalization,” BMC Medicine 10, no. 1 (2012): 16-24; Anneli Botha, “Political Socialization and Terrorist Radicalization Among Individuals Who Joined Al-Shabaab in Kenya,” Studies in Conflict & Terrorism 37, no. 11 (2014): 895-919; Clark McCauley and Sophia Moskalenko, “Mechanisms of Political Radicalization: Pathways Toward Terrorism,” Terrorism and Political Violence 20.3 (2008): 415-33;  RAND Europe, ISCA, and Bridge129, “Synthesis Report on the Results from Work Package 2: Inventory of the Factors of Radicalization and Counterterrorism Interventions,” Scientific Approach to Finding Indicators and Response to Radicalisation, (SAFIRE), February 28, 2011, 10-12; Rabasa et al., 1-31.

9 Bhui et al., 19; Rachel Briggs, “Community Engagement for Counterterrorism: Lessons from the United Kingdom,” International Affairs 86.4 (2010): 972; Botha, 904;  Katrin Euer, Anke Van Vossole, Anne Groenen, Karel Van Bouchaute, Thomas More Hogeschool, and APART, “Part I: Literature Analysis, Strengthening Resilience Against Violent Radicalisation,” STRESAVIORA, February 2014, 5; Jean Luc Marret, “From Radicalisation Analysis to Deradicalisation: Policy and Field Recommendations,” Fondation Pour La Recherche Stratégique, July 1, 2013, http://www.safire-project-results.eu/deliverables.html; RAND
Europe, 14.

10 James Khalil and Martine Zeuthen, “A Case Study of Counter Violent Extremism (CVE) Programming: Lessons from OTI’s Kenya Transition Initiative,” Stability: International Journal of Security & Development 3, no. 1 (2014), 14.

11 Marret (2013).

12 Jonathan Githens-Mazer and Robert Lambert, “Why Conventional Wisdom on Radicalization Fails: The Persistence of a Failed Discourse,” International Affairs 86, no. 4 (2010): 889-901.

13 Eli Berman and Laurence R. Iannaccone, “Religious Extremism: The Good, the Bad, and the Deadly,” Public Choice 128, no. 1-2 (2006), 109-29.

14 Asiem El Difraoui and Milena Uhlmann, “Prévention De La Radicalisation Et Déradicalisation : Les Modèles Allemand, Britannique Et Danois,” Politique Etrangère, Hiver, no. 4 (2015), 171.

15 Anneli Botha, “Political Socialization and Terrorist Radicalization Among Individuals Who Joined Al-Shabaab in Kenya,” Studies in Conflict & Terrorism 37, no. 11 (2014), 895-919.

16 John Horgan, “From Profiles to Pathways and Roots to Routes: Perspectives from Psychology on Radicalization into Terrorism,” The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 618, no. 1 (2008), 80-94.

17 Rabasa et al. (2010), xvii.

18 Joanna Pliner, “Intellectual and Motivational Intervention Approaches,” Fondation Pour La Recherche Stratégique, September 2013, http://www.safire-project-results.eu/focus.html.

19 Katrin Euer, Yunsy Krols, Karel Van Bouchaute, Anne Groenen, Letizia Paoli, Thomas More Hogeschool, and APART, “Part III: Conclusions and Recommnedations,” Scientific Approach to Finding Indicators and Response to Radicalisation, STRESAVIORA, September 2014, 13-19.

20 Ibid, 11.

21 See for example, Bhui et al. (2012), 21-23; Briggs (2010), 971-81; Githens-Mazer and Lambert (201), 900.

22 “Online Statistical Database,” Jordanian Department of Statistics, October 2015, http;//jorinfo.dos.gov.jo.

23 Ibid.

24 Ibid.

25 “Labor Force Participation Rate for Ages 15-24, Total (percent) (modeled ILO Estimate),” World DataBank.

26 “Syria Regional Refugee Response,” Inter-Agency Information Sharing Portal, January 15 2015, http://data.unhcr.org/syrianrefugees/country.php?id=107.

27 Ibid.

28 Ibid.

29 Khetam Malkawi, “Refugees Constitute Third of Jordan Population - World Bank Official,” Jordan Times, 19 December 2015.

30 “العمري مديرا لمديرية مكافحة التطرف والعنف في وزارة الداخلية .الرأي,” November 2, 2015, http://www.alrai.com/article/746748.html.

31 “حماد: مكافحة التطرف في الأردن اتخذت طابعا مؤسسيا.» الغد الاردني,” November 23, 2015, http://www.alghad.com/articles/905220-حماد-مكافحة-التطرف-في-الأردن-اتخذ-طابعا-مؤسسيا?s=ef70861eb176f8e2b463b449b9525fab.

32 “التطلعات المستقبلية,” Public Security Directorate, Government of Jordan, http://www.psd.gov.jo/index.php/ar/2015-03-30-15-48-59.

33 Lasse Lindekilde and Mark Sedgwick, “Impact of Counter-Terrorism on Communities: Denmark Background Report,” Open Society Foundations. Institute for Strategic Dialogue, 2012, http://www.strategicdialogue.org/Country_report_Denmark_AD_FW.pdf.

34 Ibid.

35 Briggs (2010).

36 Ibid.

37 David Godfrey, Karen Kellard, and Leighton Mitchell, “Preventing Violent Extremism Pathfinder Fund: Mapping of Project Activities 2007/2008,” London Department for Communities and Local Government, 2008.

38 Briggs, 980.

39 Kevin Dunn, Rosalie Atie, Michael Kennedy, Jan A. Ali, John O’Reilly, and Lindsay Rogerson, “Can You Use Community Policing for Counter Terrorism? Evidence from NSW, Australia,” Police Practice and Research, 2015, 1-16.

40 Briggs (2010), 971-81; Dunn et al. (2015), 1-16.

41 Dunn et al. (2015), 12-13.

42 Seth G. Jones and Martin C. Libicki, How Terrorist Groups End: Lessons for Countering Al Qa’ida, (Santa Monica, CA: Rand, 2008).

43 Euer et al. (2015), 13-14.

44 Michael J. Williams, John G. Horgan, and William P. Evans, “The Critical Role of Friends in     Networks for Countering Violent Extremism: Toward a Theory of Vicarious Help-seeking,” Behavioral Sciences of Terrorism and Political Aggression 8, no. 1 (September 27, 2015): 45-65.

45 Euer et al. (2015), 13-14.

46 Basia Spalek, “Radicalisation, De-radicalisation and Counter-radicalisation in Relation to Families: Key Challenges for Research, Policy and Practice,” Security Journal 29, no. 1 (2016): 39-52.

47 Rabasa et al. (2010), 15-47.

48 Ibid., 15-47.

49 Ibid., xv.

50 Ibid.

51 Horgan and Braddock, 273-274.

52 Michelle Dugas, and Arie W. Kruglanski, “The Quest for Significance Model of Radicalization: Implications for the Management of Terrorist Detainees,” Behavioral Sciences & the Behav. Sci. Law 32, no. 3 (2014): 423-39; Rabasa et al. (2010), xiii.

53 C.R. Jones,  “Are Prisons Really Schools for Terrorism? Challenging the Rhetoric on Prison Radicalization,” Punishment & Society 16, no. 1 (2014): 74-103.

54 Rabasa et al., 97.

55 Ibid, 97-98.

56 Ibid.

57 Ustaz Hassan and Mohamed Feisal Mohamed, “Proceedings of International Conference on Terrorist Rehabilitation,” International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research, Singapore, February 2009, 24-26

58 Kumar Ramakrishna, “A Holistic Critique of Singapore’s Counter-Ideological Program,” Combating Terrorism Center Sentinel 2, no. 1 (January 2009).

59 University of Amsterdam, “Empirical Study (revised),” Fondation Pour La Recherche Stratégique, July 11, 2013: 73-74; RAND Europe et al., 5; Pliner 4.

60 Horgan and Braddock (2010); Roisin Ingle, “Paramilitary Ex-prisoners Struggle to Find Employment and a Normal Life,” The Irish Times, August 5, 2000.

61 United Kingdom, House of Commons, Bound Volume Hansard -Written Answers, December 15, 2004, http://www.parliament.the-stationery-office.co.uk/pa/cm200405/cmhansrd/vo041215/text/41215w34.htm.

62 Closed presentation by the director of ISD, Proceedings of International Conference on Terrorist Rehabilitation, International Centre for Political Violence, Singapore, February 24-26, 2009.

63 Ramakrishna 2009.

64 Ibid.

65 Rabasa et al. (2010), 100-02.

66 Abdul Kader and Abdul Halim, Proceedings of International Conference on Terrorist Rehabilitation, International Centre for Political Violence, Singapore, February 24-26 2009.

67 Ibid.

68 Ibid.

69 “Chapter 2, Country Reports: Middle East and North Africa Overview,” U.S. Department of State, April 2014, http://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/crt/2013/224823.htm.; “فكرة التأسيس,” Public Security Directorate, accessed January 28, 2016,  http://www.psd.gov.jo/index.php/ar/2015-03-30-15-36-19.

70 “From Jordan to Jihad: The Lure of Syria’s Violent Extremist Groups,” Mercy Corps, https://www.mercycorps.org/sites/default/files/From Jordan to Jihad_0.pdf