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Al-Hol Camp, Syria, 17 October 2019.
Al-Hol Camp, Syria, 17 October 2019.
Photo: Y. Boechat (VOA) / Public domain
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To Punish or to Pardon: Attitudes Towards Justice and Reintegration for Europeans who Cooperated with the Islamic State

Research project

Short description


Most of the thousands of European citizens who traveled to Iraq and Syria to join the Islamic State (IS) now seek repatriation and reintegration into their home communities. This project seeks to understand the conditions under which Europeans view punishment of IS collaborators as fair. Can state-imposed punishments or rehabilitative measures contribute to reconciliation? Or should such transgressions result in the loss of citizenship for these Europeans, as some policymakers are promoting? Moreover, how do opinions about what should be done with returnees vary across sub-populations with differing perceptions of what constitutes legitimate justice?

This project integrates political theories of state legitimacy with psychological theories of punishment, justice, and forgiveness. We will run a nationally representative survey in Sweden with booster samples of areas characterized by high densities of socially disadvantaged and foreign-born inhabitants. Within the survey, embedded conjoint experiments are employed to identify variations in drivers of desire for retribution or reconciliation. These experiments will also allow us to test the effects of missalignments between punishments that Europeans see as just and those that the state may implement on willingness to forgive accused IS collaborators, with broader implications for others accused of terrorist behaviors. In this age of international terrorism, this project provides policymakers with information needed to create safe, secure, and inclusive societies.