In this episode, Intelligence Analyst Angie Gad talks with Amarnath Amarasingam about his interviews with foreign fighters. Mr. Amarasingam provides meaningful insights and helps debunk commonly held misperceptions about the drivers that motivate foreign fighters to travel to Iraq and Syria to join Salafi-jihadist groups.
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Senior Research Fellow, The George Washington University Program on Extremism
Amarnath Amarasingam is a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, a Fellow at The George Washington University’s Program on Extremism and the Co-Director of a study of Western foreign fighters based at the University of Waterloo. He is the author of Pain, Pride, and Politics: Social Movement Activism and the Sri Lankan Tamil Diaspora in Canada (2015), and the editor of Sri Lanka: The Struggle for Peace in the Aftermath of War (2016), The Stewart/Colbert Effect: Essays on the Real Impacts of Fake News (2011) and Religion and the New Atheism: A Critical Appraisal (2010).
He is also the author of several peer-reviewed articles and book chapters, has presented papers at over 80 national and international conferences, and has written for Politico, the Atlantic, Vice News, Foreign Affairs, Al-Jazeera English, and War on the Rocks. He has been interviewed on numerous national and international television and radio shows, such as BBC World Service, Sky News, and the CBC’s The National with Peter Mansbridge.
Amarasingam is an experienced field researcher, having conducted hundreds of interviews for his PhD dissertation on social movement activism, organizational dynamics, and youth identity in the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora. He also conducted over 50 interviews with former fighters of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE, or Tamil Tigers) throughout the former war zones of Sri Lanka in 2013 and 2014. At the Turkey-Syria border, Amarasingam spoke with dozens of injured fighters, refugees, as well as former and current activists of the Syrian revolution. He has also conducted field research in Somalia, Lebanon, Israel/Palestine, and with different ethnic and religious groups in North America and Europe. As co-director of a study of Western foreign fighters in Syria, he has conducted dozens of interviews with jihadists in Syria and Iraq, supporters of jihadist movements online, as well as family members and friends of individuals who have joined the fight abroad.