This research investigates the challenges for the reintegration of (ex-)Jihadi women who want to return to the Netherlands by examining how the debate around this issue is shaped by polarization. This debate is characterized by strong binaries: there is a group who is in favour of allowing the (ex-)Jihadi women to return and reintegrate, and there is a group who is against the return and reintegration. Little research has been done to examine the return and reintegration of (ex-)Jihadis in the Dutch context and how it is influenced by polarization. Hence, this research investigates how societal polarization affects the reintegration of female (ex-)Jihadis into the Dutch society. It further analyses how Dutch citizens relate to the decision of the women to join IS and their desire to come back. Additionally, it questions the role of the media in the debate and how it is affected by polarization. For this research, qualitative research methods have been adopted: semi-structured in-depth interviews and a focus group discussion (FGD) were conducted. To analyse the qualitative data, polarization theorizing and Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) theorizing has been used. The results revealed that the debate around the reintegration of (ex-)Jihadi women is highly polarized. There is a strong “us-versus-them” narrative in which two camps are facing each other: those in-favour of the reintegration, and those against-return of the women group. The media is an important factor and polarizing tool in this debate. It is drawn to polarizing opinions and binaries, in their coverage it enlarges these opinions thus reinforcing and strengthening polarization. Overall, nuance is lacking in the media. The high level of societal polarization is limiting social and political progress on this issue, after all there is no agreement on the issue of the returning (ex-)Jihadi women. It is highly recommended that the Dutch government attempts to lower the polarization and creates more room for political progress so that a consensus can be reached on the reintegration of the (ex-)Jihadi women.

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Jayasundara-Smits, Shyamika
Social Policy for Development (SPD)
International Institute of Social Studies

Egmond, Astrid van. (2020, December 18). Polarization and reintegration of the (ex-)Jihadi women back into the Dutch society. Social Policy for Development (SPD). Retrieved from