Recruiting Practices of Terrorist Organizations

Recruiting Practices of Terrorist Organizations

The literature related to the international terrorism indicates that active members of these groups joined of their own volition. However, terrorist groups are highly secretive organizations. If a person is interested in becoming a member of any band, they cannot join it readily due to the level of secrecy that the organizations maintain.  The members of these groups fear that the people who want to become a member of their band may be from the intelligence service or police agents. For these reasons, the organizations subject prospective members through rigorous tests before they become a part of the corresponding group. This scenario informs the inference that most members of the terrorist organizations did not join them willingly, but were recruited through the propaganda campaigns and social media lures. Becoming a terrorist is a process of construction, where a person undergoes a brainwashing procedure. This paper explains the social and psychological methods that the terrorist organizations use in order to recruit new members.

Social Methods

The terrorist organizations attract the individuals into a group dynamics, in which they have already adjusted the scenery, players, and the décor. They practice friend relationships, local associations, ethnic inclinations, relative relations and religious associations to appeal to the individuals’ emotions. They manipulate the unsatisfied needs of the individuals as propaganda tools. Moreover, they meet most of their targeted members on social media sites and at the social gatherings (Price & Morris, 2011).

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Friend Relationships

Individuals satisfy their social and psychological needs when they belong to the respective groups. Some of the social and psychological needs that people seek to satisfy include loving and being loved, belonging to a group, and being treated as an adult. Peers greatly influence the actions and decisions of their fellows because they establish mutual trust. Consequently, such situation may lead an individual to drug addiction and  terrorist group through their friends’ influence. The terrorist organizations exploit such friendships in colleges, workplaces, and neighborhoods to recruit the members (Forest, 2006).

Relative Relationships

Relative relationships occur among the people who are closely related to each other.  This kind of relationship is formed through birth, marriage, or adoption. People with kinship ties establish the social relationship and mark distinctions among themselves. Kinship relations are not strong nowadays due to the loss of connection for the reasons of migration. The relatives do not do not feel solidarity to each other. The traditional families are separated as a result of industrialization while the nuclear family has gained great importance. The wide social institution, which is called the kinship network, has been separated into small pieces in the towns and been slowly lost. The terrorist groups take advantage of the loss of identity by the modern generation and masquerade to help the young people connect to their kinsmen. A kinsman of a targeted person, who is a member of the terrorist group, can easily influence the individual to join the group. The testimonies of militants reveal that some of them became members of their organization under the influence of a kinsman (Hoffman & Reinares, 2014).

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Local and Regional Associations

People from the same part of the country, province and village have a greater sense of attachment. These relations extend to civic associations. Moreover, the individuals, who immigrate into urban areas and foreign countries, prefer to settle in the places inhabited by their fellow countrymen and tribesmen. The terrorist organizations take maximum advantage of the relationships developed through the local associations. They approach the individual who feels lonely, in the universities or in the shanty towns, on the pretext of being a fellow countryman.

Social and Cultural Activities

Terrorist groups are aware that people enjoy participating in the social and cultural events. These bands arrange conditions to meet people by organizing social and cultural activities. The terrorist organizations prearrange some innocent meeting, such as picnics, sporting activities, tea parties, concerts, and meetings of friends, cultural activities, movie shows, and youth camps (Kamolnick et al, 2014). All these activities involve the use of bookstores, foundations, associations, cultural centers, and political party premises belonging to the corresponding organizations, all of which are functioning legally. They utilize these events to interact with the participants and cultivate loyalty.  They subsequently lure and recruit some of these people into their groups.

Using Religious Values

The sense of religion has been rife throughout the history of humanity. People in all regions of the world have a way of worship. Religion is a set of belief in supernatural powers. According to Islam, religion is a system of divine laws, which conveys the people of wisdom to the most beautiful and the best through their own will. Nowadays, there are approximately 3,000 religions, 6,000 sects, and 12,000 religious orders (Kamolnick et al, 2014). The religions include Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Brahmanism, and Buddhism.

The concept of religion serves an indispensable function for an individual and the societies, which need to believe in a higher order. Worshipping the sun, moon, stone, soil, fire, which were identified as supernatural phenomena, the people started to meet this need more systematically through human religions.

Moreover, religion presents certain varieties in beliefs within the same religion, due to the differences in interpretations, lifestyles, and perception. Terrorist groups take advantage of the different interpretations of religious believes to mislead individuals. A vivid example of exploiting individuals is Islam. Terrorist groups such as ISIS recruit young people masquerading as Jihad (Jenkins, 2010).  They encourage them to kill non-Muslims as a way of fighting the Jihad war. Most radical activities occur in the religious places, such as mosques. The perpetrators gather the victims to provide teachings on strict religious lines and, finally, radicalizing them to perform terrorist activities.

Using Ethnic Roots

An ethnic group is a section of a population with a common cultural tradition and conscious of identity in the society. They have distinct cultural features from other members of the wider society. Such groups have a religion, language and tradition that is particular for them. This distinctness unifies the group.  Most terrorist organizations, such as Boko Haram, are established on a narrative of inequality among the country’s ethnic groups (Price & Morris, 2011). Such groups propagate ethnic animosity and recruit members of the targeted ethnic group hiding behind the fact of defending the community.

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Psychological Methods

Terrorist organizations apply not only social methods, but also psychological ones, in order to recruit new members. Usually they attract individuals into their circles by promising to meet the target individuals’ psychological and physiological needs, using relatives, friends, fellow-countrymen, religious values as well as social and cultural activities,. Through the ideology supported by an organization, the terrorists try to change the targeted persons’ attitude , perception of the world and form absolutely  new subconscious, thus the terrorists give the recruits a militant identity and personality. The sociological methods complement the psychological ones. Terrorist organizations engage their militants into armed actions after the recruits have passed a psychological formation. The psychological methods used by the terrorist organizations to attract the new members are explained below.


The terrorist organizations gather vast detailed information about the people they want to recruit from schools, workplaces, streets, syndicates, unions, political parties, and villages. The information may concern family structure, cultural roots, economic factors, social and psychological needs, religious and ethnic affiliation, as well as social groups.  They collect such information to ensure that the person is not a police agent, can easily behave revolutionary and will not reveal their secrets (Hoffman & Reinares, 2014).

After the terrorist organizations collect necessary information, they approach the target through communication. They position themselves to have the ability to satisfy the social, psychological, and physiological needs of the individual. They meet the needs depending on the person they target. If they target the students, they provide scholarships and finance. For job seekers, they provide job offers. The terrorist organizations instigate the dialogue by inviting the targets to drink tea, have a picnic or go to the theater. They can also invite the target to a cultural center or the religious gathering. In the first encounter, they provide the best conditions for meeting the identified needs of the individual (Hoffman & Reinares, 2014).

Group Dynamics

Terrorist organizations use the scenery, actors and décor in order to attract the individuals into that group. The manipulation of these factors aims at positioning the organization as the best option to meet the individuals’ psychological and physiological needs. The groups understand that a successful terrorist organization should establish a network whose members are indispensable. They use group dynamics to brainwash and change the attitudes of the militants and remove their personal identities to fit the ideologies of the respective organization. The terrorist bands understand that people need to belong to a group for social relations, collaboration, and cooperation. They secretly approach a willing individual and they trust the recruits through their members. The organizations do not allow the recruited member to leave the organization willingly. When they involve people, they show them a sense of hope (Forest, 2006). Once the individual joins a group, they manipulate their sense of fear in order to keep them in the network. The recruited members are restricted to what they read, with whom they interact, and whom they marry.


The most important step in winning the recruits is to change their attitudes. The terrorist organizations use the individuals to perform various tasks, such as distributing posters, conducting killings, and suicide attacks. These groups change the attitude of the individuals using brainwashing through books, magazines, and publications. When they read these materials, they form new expectations, beliefs, feelings, and ideas. They also place the individuals in the groups where they conduct controlled discussions to feed them with their thoughts. The organizational members raise pre-determined issues and provide pre-planned answers. The targeted individuals are constantly fed with new propaganda material to read. The organization emphasizes the benefit that the reader will acquire by believing in the facts and ideologies contained in the presented materials. This helps the terrorist organization to achieve a single way of thinking among its all members. The organization also feeds the individuals with her organizational propaganda, such as slogans, music, and videos (Jenkins, 2010).

Training the Militants

After attracting the targeted individuals, the terrorist organizations subject them to ideological training. They provide them with publications and websites as basic training materials. They send the recruits to the training camps for practical activities. The ideological and theoretical training runs concurrently with the practical training. After the ideological training, the best individuals are subjected to the basic training required for armed strife. They are trained on the use of weapons, planning actions, such as assassinations, and other tactics, such as organizing a bomb attack.


Human resource is an important part for the existence of a terrorist organization. For this reason, terrorist organizations continuously recruit militants to undertake more terrorist activities or fill the vacant positions left by the ones lost in the armed conflicts. They either exploit the social groups of the targeted individuals or position themselves to fulfill the unmet needs of their members. The society must be well informed about the activities of the terrorist organizations and their tactics of recruitment in order to prevent them from falling victims.

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