Tunisia became one of the largest sources of foreign fighters for the Islamic State—even though the country stands out as a democratic bright spot of the Arab uprisings and despite the fact that it had very little history of terrorist violence within its borders prior to 2011. In Your Sons Are at Your Service, Aaron Y. Zelin uncovers the longer history of Tunisian involvement in the jihadi movement and offers an in-depth examination of the reasons why so many Tunisians became drawn to jihadism following the 2011 revolution. Zelin highlights the longer-term causes that affected jihadi recruitment in Tunisia, including the prior history of Tunisians joining jihadi organizations and playing key roles in far-flung parts of the world over the past four decades. He contends that the jihadi group Ansar al-Sharia in Tunisia was able to take advantage of the universal prisoner amnesty, increased openness, and the lack of governmental policy toward it after the revolution. In turn, this provided space for greater recruitment and subsequent mobilization to fight abroad once the Tunisian government cracked down on the group in 2013. Zelin marshals cutting-edge empirical findings, extensive primary source research, and on-the-ground fieldwork, including a variety of documents in Arabic going as far back as the 1980s and interviews with Ansar al-Sharia members and Tunisian fighters returning from Syria. The first book on the history of the Tunisian jihadi movement, Your Sons Are at Your Service is a meticulously researched account that challenges simplified views of jihadism’s appeal and success.
Aaron Y. Zelin is the Richard Borow Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and a visiting research scholar in the Department of Politics at Brandeis University. He is the founder of the website Jihadology.net, a primary source archive of global jihadi materials. His research focuses on Sunni Arab jihadi groups in North Africa and Syria as well as the trend of foreign fighting, online jihadism, and jihadi governance. He is also the author of the New America Foundation’s January 2013 study The State of the Global Jihad Online, the June 2014 Washington Institute study The War Between ISIS and al-Qaeda for Supremacy of the Global Jihadist Movement, the January 2016 Washington Institute study The Islamic State’s Territorial Methodology, the editor of the June 2017 Washington Institute study How al-Qaeda Survived Drones, Uprisings, and the Islamic State, and author of the January 2018 Washington Institute study The Others: Foreign Fighters in Libya.
Tamar Mitts is a political scientist who uses data science and machine learning to examine the dynamics of conflict and political violence, with a focus on the causes and consequences of radicalization and violent extremism. Her current research examines the behavior of Islamic State supporters on social media. She studies how supporters respond to experiences of anti-Muslim hostility in the West, how they react to online propaganda, and whether they are sensitive to counter-extremism programs aiming to reduce radicalization. These projects draw on new data on the online behavior of over a million users linked to the Islamic State on Twitter. Her other projects examine the social and political legacies of violence and terrorism, the way in which symbolic attachment to territory shapes the resolution of territorial disputes, and the role of rapidly-evolving media technologies on political processes around the world. Her work has been published in the American Political Science Review, International Organization, the Journal of Economic Perspectives, and Political Science Research and Methods, among others. She holds a Ph.D. in Political Science from Columbia University.