Report: Foreign ISIS Recruits Likely to Be Well-Educated, Relatively Wealthy

‘Poverty is not a driver of radicalization’

French fighters (or French speaking) of ISIS or Islamic State group or Daesh deliver a message to Francois Hollande and to French people, mourning the killers of Charlie Hebdo team, brothers Kouachi, as well as Amedy Coulibaly in a video message sent on internet on February 4th, 2015
French fighters (or French speaking) of ISIS deliver a message to Francois Hollande and to French people in a video message sent Feb. 4, 2015 / AP
October 6, 2016

Foreign recruits to the Islamic State are well-educated and relatively wealthy individuals, upending the notion that poverty and low education levels play a primary role in driving support for the militant group, according to a new report from the World Bank.

The research, compiled through leaked ISIS materials, also determined that a large percentage of those aspiring to become suicide bombers ranked among the more educated.

"These individuals are far from being uneducated or illiterate," the report says. "Most claim to have attended secondary school and a large fraction have gone on to study at university."

Disaffected members of ISIS released a cache of 22,000 documents in March that included basic information of nearly 4,000 foreign recruits who joined the terrorist group between 2013 and 2014, the Guardian reported. Those arriving in ISIS-held territory were interviewed by jihadists who recorded data, including on country of origin, education level, and knowledge of Islamic law.

The data shows that 69 percent of recruits reported at least a secondary level education while 15 percent left school before high school and less than two percent are illiterate, according to the World Bank.

Fighters joining the jihadist group in Syria and Iraq are significantly more educated than the average population in their home countries, particularly those from the Middle East, North Africa, and South and East Asia.

The data shows clearly, the report says, that "poverty is not a driver of radicalization into violent extremism."

In fact, the data shows ISIS has been more likely to draw foreign recruits from wealthier countries.

"We find that Daesh did not recruit its foreign workforce among the poor and less educated, but rather the opposite. Instead, the lack of economic inclusion seems to explain the extent of radicalization into violent extremism," the report says.

"In countries with a large Muslim population, low degrees of religiosity, low levels of trust in religious institutions, and strong government and social control of religion seem to be risk factors of radicalization," it adds.