To Punish or to Pardon? Attitudes Towards Justice and Reintegration for Europeans who Cooperated with the Islamic State








In April 2020, GLD Senior Research Fellow Kristen Kao (Principal Investigator) and Professor Peter Esaiasson (University of Gothenburg) were awarded 66,000 SEK (approx. 7,500 USD) by Lundgrens Vetenskapsfond to study the return of Islamic State collaborators to Europe. GLD collaborated on this project until December 2021.

Thousands of European citizens who traveled to Iraq and Syria to join the Islamic State (IS) now seek repatriation and reintegration into their home communities. This project sought to understand the conditions under which Europeans will accept the return of compatriot IS collaborators into their communities. How does variation in the social identity of an IS collaborator (e.g. gender, age) or the type of collaboration (e.g. combat, marriage to a fighter, or employment in a civilian job) affect prospects for reintegration? Can state-imposed punishments or rehabilitative measures contribute to reconciliation? Or should these transgressions result in the loss of citizenship for these Europeans, as some policymakers are promoting? Moreover, once the state decides to impose a punishment, how do injustice gaps between what a person perceives as appropriate and what the state decides affect desires for retribution and state legitimacy? 

This project developed a theoretical framework that integrated political theories of state legitimacy with psychological theories of (in)justice, retribution, and forgiveness. To test this framework, Facebook surveys in Sweden were applied with embedded conjoint experiments. The study included a sample of 1500 Swedish-speaking and 1500 Arabic-speaking inhabitants of Sweden in order to allow for examination of variations across older versus newer residents of Europe. In the age of international terrorism, this project provided policymakers with information to help create safe, secure, and inclusive societies, with broader implications for others accused of criminal behaviors and the legitimacy of the state.


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Related Publications:

Kao, Kristen and Mara RedlichRevkin. (2018) "To Punish or toPardon?"Governance and Local Development Institute Working Paper Series, No. 17. Available here.

Revkin, Mara Redlich and Kristen Kao. (2021). "How Does Punishment Affect Reintegration? Evidence from Islamic State “Collaborators” in Iraq." Governance and Local Development Institute Working Paper Series, No. 41. Available here. 



This project is supported by the To Punish or to Pardon? Attitudes Towards Justice and Reintegration for Swedes who Cooperated with the Islamic State grant (Lundgrens Vetenskapsfond 2020-3643) grant, PI: Kristen Kao.

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