ISIS appeal challenge for Kosovo: report

A ISIL fighter carrying the militant group's flag | Wikipedia

A new report by the Kosovar Center for Security Studies warned that the so-called Islamic State will remain a challenge for Kosovo until its institutions mount a comprehensive, multidimensional campaign to combat its message and 'narrative'.

The new report, “The Islamic State Narrative in Kosovo Deconstructed One Story at a Time”, by the Kosovar Center for Security Studies, KCSS, noted that Kosovo has much to do if it is to counter the so-called Islamic State's appeal to Kosovo citizens.

Looking at municipalities that have been more affected by radicalization, KCSS pointed out that blanket claims, ignorance and lack of critical thinking are among the determining factors that have made the ISIS narrative appealing to Kosovo’s young.

Moreover, the research focused on close analysis of the lectures and sermons of five controversial imams in Kosovo who have been detained on suspicion of aiding and abetting ISIS's recruitment efforts in Kosovo.

The report relied on four interviews with former foreign fighters from Kosovo, including those currently in detention. It stated that there is no doubt that at least some of the people who joined ISIS in Syria and Iraq believed they were regarding the call to fight a holy war in Syria. It further explained that for years, through direct personal contact, local imams worked on their indoctrination, encouraging contempt for the secular state.

The wives of the defendants often appear to have encouraged their husbands to go to Syria and also joined them, the study further noted.

KCSS study found that ISIS recruiters and violent extremists use Facebook and YouTube extensively as platforms to spread their propaganda.

“With nearly half of the population [of Kosovo] on Facebook, Kosovo’s citizens can access numerous Facebook pages, closed and open, that disseminate IS propaganda,” the report notes.

KCSS concludes with a list of relevant stakeholders that should be key in producing an effective counter-narrative.

According the KCSS, the government should appoint an envoy that will reach out to vulnerable communities to communicate their needs to the authorities, and explain to them Kosovo’s foreign policy goals, including developments in the Middle East ... working together with civil society to help identify former ISIS fighters, and fund a media awareness-raising campaign that counters every layer of the ISIS narrative with facts.