Today, the presence of the so-called Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq threatens not only the Middle East, but the entire world. The terrorist organization has conquered vast areas of Iraq and Syria through fear and mass killings and has succeeded in carrying out acts of terror in Western countries such as France and Germany.
Even after multiple military interventions, the roots of terrorism have not been eliminated. It is time for foreign governments to work in tandem with the current regimes in the Middle East, even if they have deplorable human rights violation records, to introduce economic and social reform that might mitigate radicilization among the population.
The IS group is one of the most extreme groups in the Middle East, and part of its rise stems from the 2011 Arab Spring. The Arab Spring brought forth numerous revolutions in dictatorial countries, creating power vacuums that led to civil wars and widespread instability. Unemployment and poverty have risen as companies have halted business amid concerns of civil and sectarian strife, and violence disrupted the peace.
With many unemployed amid ongoing conflicts, terrorist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood and the IS group have the financial means to attract supporters with guaranteed benefits, including salaries for members and benefits for their families. The use of religion to justify terrorism works in several countries in the Middle East due to the poor standard of education as well as the decay and ineffective nature of social institutions. These are among the reasons why the IS group expanded so quickly throughout the Middle East.
The Arab world did have greater stability and less radicalization under dictators like Saddam Hussein, even with great amounts of injustices inflicted upon citizens. Violations of civil liberties and human rights under these leaders cannot be ignored. But, we should not disregard how the IS group is committing more human rights violations than past regimes. It is time, then for foreign governments to support the current legitimate governments, including that of Bashar al-Assad in Syria where the ongoing civil war has created thousands of casualties and millions of refugees.
Yet other nations like Egypt and Saudi Arabia have managed to maintain relative stability among their populations. Through tough security measures and improved social services, ranging from new government jobs programs to welfare reform and taxbreaks, both countries are beginning to deter their citizens from radicalizing. Egyptian President Abdel Fateh el-Sisi has allocated billions of dollars toward national mega projects and King Salman of Saudi Arabia has introduced a nationwide unemployment insurance scheme and housing loan support program to appease his citizens.
However, the roots of radicalization have yet to be addressed effectively throughout the region. Improved education and effective social services need to be implemented to foster educated, open-minded populations that support their governments for providing necessary services to the people. All these developments require and depend on a stable economy and political forum.
For this environment to exist, a government with extensive power and authority is necessary to prevent any disturbances during the period of maintaining peace. This has been done before in the Middle East. For example, the United Arab Emirates has enjoyed decades of stability and social development as a result of this. At the same time, there is always the danger of limited human rights and social freedoms, yet the UAE has so far mitigated radicalization through there generous government subsidies, an effective primary education system and a diversified economy.
The issue of radicalization is not new. Each generation has faced its own kind of radicals. Radicalization itself can be traced to a result of poor or failed governance. It will take more than the assistance of foreign governments to curb radicalization in the region. It will be the responsibility of future world leaders to curb these dangers through reforms that both please the masses and maintain strong, effective modes of governance.
Wasil Rezk is a freshman in the School of Foreign Service. Nilescope appears every other Tuesday.