The ragingnational and international debate on the spreading phenomenon of extremism makes questioning its causes and itsincentives necessary in order to successfully identify its characteristics and to develop and put into practice an efficient counterstrategy. Although an extremist doesn’t necessarily resort to violence, the process of radicalization includes violence within its stages.

The process of radicalization emerged due to multiple factors. It includes youngpeople of both sexes as they represent a category that is extremely fragile and easy to polarize and recruit. The multiple terrorist attacks that Tunisia witnessed before and mainly after the revolution revealed a major involvement of uneducated youth between 15 and 35 years old, mainly residents of marginalized areas surrounding big cities. This study sheds light on two of these areas, which are Zarzouna (Bizerte Governorate) and DouarHicher (Manouba Governorate).

This English version is a summary of the original French document which you can find on the following link:

The choice of these two areas, made by The Association for the Right to the Difference promotion,was driven by the field experience acquired through the work of the association members in these particular regions over the years.The direct involvement of the members of the association within the social tissue of Zarzouna and DouarHicher is another choice criterion. These two semi-urban Tunisian areas are known to be classified as regions that include largenumbers of extremists.

Zarzouna is an industrial estate in the Bizerte Governorate. Its population is 24793 inhabitants according to the 2014 census (6245 families), of which 40% are females (9814). The percentage of students enrolled in secondary schools in this region is 46.83%. University students’ percentage does not exceed 10.57% andilliteracy rate is 9.44% for men and 18.4% for women.

As for DouarHicher, its population is 84090 (20773 families) according to the census of 2014; of which 49% are females. The illiteracy rates reach 25.10% for men and 14.23% for women.DouarHicher is an illegal construction area built due to emigration waves in the 70s.

Poverty, school dropouts and marginalization have rendered these areas favorable for the spread of Islamic fundamentalism which is linked to jihadist groups. Along with the downturn of state, these jihadist groups allowed this fragile youth to surpass the feeling of marginalization by shaping them a new identity based on delusive heroism, social and economic empowerment. This field study attempts to contribute to the understanding of the key factors behind the motivation of the youth of these two areas to radicalize. It also aims to assess their perception of this phenomenon through a gender-basedapproach. This diagnosis represents a contribution to the establishment of an institutional framework keen to combat extremism. In harmony with the national counter-terrorism strategy that is being placed by the actual government, this study tries to establish public and civic initiatives in this direction in both Zarzouna and DouarHicher.


Study results

The process of radicalization is complex and strongly connected to the psyche of each individual. However, it is proven that some of the key factors that are beyond the control of individuals are directly related to the threat of extremism. Although 90.3% of the respondents declared their rejection of extremism and joining the terrorist universities, 7% confirmed that they were supporters of these groups, especially since they provide them with social and economic services.


The case study particularly highlights the decline of role of the state in facing this imminent danger. By abandoning its obligations towards the inhabitants of the region, the state allowed these fundamentalist groups to take its place in combating unemployment and poverty and providing social and educational services to the inhabitants of these regions. Added to that, these study confirms that the absence of the means of entertainment and the lack of scientific and cultural advancement has contributed to the polarization and recruitment of the youth in these areas. In fact, these jihadist groups provide alternatives through study circles led in uncontrolled mosques and cafés.


As a result of the similar education and culture, 47% of the women in both areas consider the jihadist fundamentalist message to be the trueIslam.

This field study of 450 inhabitant of the two areas stressed the findings of previous statistical and sociological studies of the important role of the urban, economic and social factors in pushing the youth towards radicalization. Particularly, it enabled to highlight other factors that wenthave gone unnoticed such as the nature of the relation between the youth of these areas with the security forces.


The results of the study lead us to the development of an implementationplan to combat extremism among the youth of these two areas. This work plan will be resting on four pillars of public policy:

1-Development and Reconstruction Policy:In this regard, it is important to point out two phenomena: Urbanization, which suffers froma lack of planning on the one hand and the geographical remoteness of cultural and entertainment centers on the other hand. This remoteness has been compensated by mosques that have become public spaces alternatives in these areas. Accordingly, the State is required to review the reconstruction policy in these areas by combating illegal constructions and repairingthe infrastructure for these areas.The state should also establish or move cultural centers, movie theaters and gymnasiums closer in order to fight cultural desertification for the youth of both regions. Otherwise, they’ll keep resorting to uncontrolled mosques. This particular point was stressed by the inhabitants of DouarHicher.

2- Social governance policy:The population of both areas suffers from a severe lack of social cohesion, which incites the youth to respond to any option that can overcome social impotence. Therefore, the state should establish appropriate structures for social governance and civic education to train youth and instill the values of citizenship and human rights and help them find their own paths. In this context, it is mandatory to modernize theological discourse and clear it off ideologies. Generally, the state should scale down its purely securitarian presence and replace it with a socio-cultural one, making the statetake preventive rather than a deterrent policies.

3- Economic policy: Poverty is one of the most important factors leading to extremism. Therefore, the state is required to find solutions to the economic development in these areasthrough encouraging investment in these regions and shaping its own economic policy, which is based on empowering women and involving the youth of the region in the economic cycle.

4- Communication policy: The youth of both areas particularly emphasized their negative perception on the presence of the state in their area which is purely domineering and authoritarian. Accordingly, urgent measures should be taken to improve the reputation of security forces in these areas to reshape a better relationship between the residents and policemen. The past relationship that is based on fear and insolence should be transformed into a complementary relationship. This process requires initiatives and compromises from both sides, police forces and the inhabitants of both concerned areas.


  • Reviewing the reconstruction policy through combatingillegal constructionsand repairing infrastructure
  • Bringingculture closer to the youth through the establishment of cultural centers, cinemas and gymnasiums
  • Promoting culture and creativity as a means of combating violent extremism
  • Guidingthe youth by setting appropriate structures for social governance and civic education
  • Promoting gender equality taking into account the important role women play in conflict resolution and peacebuilding, as set in UN Security Council Resolution 1325
  • Empowering women economically and consolidating their of their own insights on human rights, leadership, financial education and work to achieve their intellectual immunity
  • Encouraging dealing with girls’ early dropouts from schools as an immunization measure
  • Adopting direct and field communication with women and youth for the sake of prevention and raising awareness
  • Takingmeasures to propagate an alternative speech against radical discourse and work on shocking symbols such as statistics and pictures and respond to them with opposite symbols.
  • Substitutingthe securitarian approach with a socio-cultural one
  • Encouraging investment and establishing an economic policy based on the specificities of each region
  • Involving youth in the economic cycle
  • Improving the reputation of police forces among the inhabitants of the concerned areas
  • Establishing a cooperative relationship between security forces and the inhabitants
  • Involving women and young people in developing strategies to combat violent extremism

Dépliant ADD EN