What do young people get out of involvement in violent extremism?

The following list is by no means exhaustive, but offers a way of understanding young people’s decisions to get involved in organised armed violence A sense of identity, belonging and acceptance – the young person may feel that they are being included, and the group may provide a source of support. This may be particularly relevant for young people who feel alienated by a prevailing culture, or who may be feared or suspected because of their beliefs, religion, or where they live. Security or safety – on the one hand, the young person may feel safer as a member of a particular grouping, particularly if there is a perceived threat from outside the neighbourhood or from a different grouping. On the other hand, there may be very real consequences for the young person if they choose not to get involved. For example, in Germany, young people who are not part of right-wing groups in some rural areas may experience fear and intimidation because of the level of domination by a rightwing youth culture; some may feel they have to blend in to stay safe. Status – involvement in a violent gang or extremist group may give the young person a sense that they are protecting their family or neighbourhood. Honour and responsibility – affiliation with an organised armed group can often tap into a sense of duty about what it means to be a responsible citizen. The activities of paramilitary groupings may become dominant and accepted as normal in some neighbourhoods, especially if they are seen as resolving local problems more effectively than the police. They may also provide another avenue for young people – young men in particular – to act out of a sense of service to the local community. Another motivation for involvement may be the fear of shame, particularly for falling short of shared norms and expectations, such as gender-based notions around expectations of what it means to be a man. Legitimisation – extremist acts of violence can emerge in societies where there is increased division and between ethno-religious communities or political identities. Such division creates a heightened sense of tradition and cultural identity and anything perceived to threaten that culture or ‘way of life’ reinforces the divide between ‘them’ and ‘us’ as well as fear of ‘the other’. Participation in organised armed groups can serve as justification for discriminatory and violent actions towards ‘the enemy’. A way out of poverty – particularly for those young people living in communities suffering deprivation, involvement in gangs or paramilitary groups may offer a source of income. For some, becoming active in a violent gang or extremist group may be considered as an alternative career. A sense of empowerment and purpose – the young person may feel that their contribution matters and that their worth is validated because of the role they are given within a violent extremist group. An opportunity to resolve injustices – regardless of whether these are local or global, some violent groupings are perceived positively because they are doing something. This can be an important factor in communities where the police force is perceived to be unrepresentative and engaged in unfair practices (such as ethnic profiling) and is therefore not accepted, nor seen as effectual. Some young people may feel that being part of a paramilitary organisation or extremist group is their only way to challenge the inequities or discrimination they experience