Terror groups attract university graduates – Study

When analysed by qualification, university graduates make up the largest proportion of local Tunisian terrorists, as ongoing youth unemployment makes them an easy target for extremist groups in the country.

This was the main message of a study entitled Terrorism in Tunisia through Court Records presented at the Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights or FTDES held in Tunisia on 26 October, according to a press report.

This was the first study of the Tunisian Centre for Research and Studies on Terrorism or CTRET – a new centre launched by FTDES to carry out studies to analyse the phenomenon of terrorism as well as its various mechanisms and development in order to reflect on solutions.

Developed by lawyers and specialists, the study covered a sample of over 1,000 terrorists – 965 men and 35 women – and is based on 384 court records presented over five years, starting from 2011 to 2015.

40% hold university degree

The study found that Tunisian terrorists have different education levels, with about 40% of them holding a university degree.

In addition, the study pointed out that 33% of the sample had a high school diploma, 13% were graduates from vocational training centres and 4% were completing their secondary school studies.

The largest number of terrorists belonged to the 25-29-year age group (275 people), followed by the 30-34-year age group (243) and the 18-24-year age group (204).

The results of the study showed that there is some variation in the distribution of jihadists within Tunisia. The highest number reside in the governorates of Tunis and Sidi Bouzid where the death of jobless university graduate Mohammed Bouazizi sparked Tunisia’s 2011 popular uprising known as the ‘Jasmine Revolution’, which ended the 23-year authoritarian regime of Zine el Abidine Ben Ali and unleashed unrest across much of the Arab world.

Mass suicide attempt

Last month, the western border town of Kasserine was the site of a mass suicide attempt by unemployed graduates, according to a 21 October report headlined “Mass suicide attempt rocks Kasserine”.

According to the report, 27 unemployed graduates swallowed toxic substances outside the governorate’s headquarters and were taken to hospital for treatment.

Kasserine was also the home of unemployed graduate Ridha Yahyaoui who committed suicide in January this year after local authorities removed him from a shortlist for a public sector job.

A short video clip entitled "The choice between a job and death" posted on YouTube, depicts the ongoing protest action by Tunisian university graduates over their circumstances in the town.

Graduate unemployment

Graduate unemployment in Kasserine remains a critical issue for the town’s inhabitants as unemployment among higher education graduates in Kasserine stands at 33.4%, which is almost double the national average of 15.6%, according to the 2014 census.

In addition to an individual’s socio-economic, political and ideological world views, long-term youth unemployment has been identified as one of the possible reasons behind the decision taken by individuals to become fighters for violent extremist groups, according to the 2015 Global Terrorism Index or GTI.

Out of 162 countries, Tunisia was ranked 47 for the direct and indirect impact of terrorism in terms of lives lost, injuries, property damage and the psychological after-effects, according to the 2015 GTI.

In addition to the CTRET report which indicates that university graduates form the biggest proportion of members of terrorist networks in Tunisia, a 2014 report entitled Foreign Fighters in Syria and prepared by the Soufan Group, pointed out that the highest number of fighters joining violent extremist groups in other countries, such as Syria, are also Tunisian nationals.