Güneş Murat Tezcür and Clayton Besaw. 2018. “Jihadist Waves: Syria, the Islamic State, and the Changing Nature of Foreign Fighters,Conflict Management and Peace Science.

This article offers the first systematic analysis of cross-generational and cross-organizational aspects of jihadist foreign fighter (JFF) mobilization. How are individuals fighting in Syria different from foreign fighters who fought in the previous jihadist wars? What factors distinguish the Islamic State (IS) fighters from individuals joining other jihadist groups in Syria? The article builds an original sample of 477 JFFs from Turkey spanning three decades and employs the Random Forest technique, a method with several distinct advantages over regression analysis in the study of small N conflict data. The results have substantial and practical implications and show that fighters in Syria and IS fighters have different demographic characteristics and life experiences than fighters in pre-Syria wars and non-IS fighters in Syria, respectively. They inform more empirically grounded theory building about the recruitment motives and methods of JFFs.


Güneş Murat Tezcür and Sabri Ciftci. 2014. “Radical Turks: Why Turkish Citizens are Joining ISIS,” Foreign Affairs.

The past few weeks have seen a wave of Muslims from all around the world joining the ranks of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). Although most of the attention has been on those coming from the United States and Europe, the bulk of foreign fighters has actually come from Algeria, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, and Turkey. While Turkish citizens have traveled to foreign lands and fought in the "war of others" since at least the early 1970s, the scope and pace of foreign fighter mobilization since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war has  been unprecedented. These fighters primarily pursued two opposing ideological goals, risking their lives to take arms either for religious (i.e., ummah and caliphate) or nationalist (i.e., Kurdistan) political projects. Demographic analysis of hundreds of these fighters sheds some light on exactly who these individuals are, where they come from and how they differ from those who left Turkey to fight a generation ago. It also provides some insights about the motives of these individuals. As some of these individuals return home - at times with deadly consequences - understanding these motivations becomes increasingly important.