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Mobilizing Narratives: Comparing Afghan Hazaras in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and Bangladeshis in Islamist Groups

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While recruitment of middle and upper-class Bangladeshis by Islamic jihadist terror groups and Iranian mobilization of Afghan Hazaras to fight in the Syrian civil war present two extremely different regional

While recruitment of middle and upper-class Bangladeshis by Islamic jihadist terror groups and Iranian mobilization of Afghan Hazaras to fight in the Syrian civil war present two extremely different regional challenges, this study shows how these movements are linked in the ways in which state and non-state actors deploy similar narrative strategies to mobilize support. I argue that narratives that capitalize upon the failure of upward social mobility and governance failures are highly useful for recruiting individuals to join either state or non-state organizations when appropriately and specifically linked to the particular historical, cultural, and political environment. I will demonstrate this by comparing and contrasting the use of recruitment narratives playing off of grievances for Iran's IRGC recruitment of poor Afghan Hazaras with low-levels of formal educational achievement and Islamist terrorist groups’ recruitment of middle- and upper-class Bangladeshis. The study argues that while the contexts and life experiences between IRGC Hazara and Bangladeshi terror group recruits are quite distinct, they are similarly motivated by narratives that emphasize the creation of a strong ideological and religious community based on alienation defined by a lack of desired and expected upward social mobility and profound failures of basic governance.

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  • 2020-05