Extremist radicalisation towards non-state political violence in Jordan


Identify literature on extremist radicalisation towards non-state political violence in Jordan. Present key drivers that have caused individuals to move towards using non-state political violence in the country. Where possible, note any trends.


Within available evidence, there are a number of knowledge gaps on issues, social structures (such as gender), and geographic areas. To reflect this state of knowledge and to be precise about the sources of specific findings, this report presents references in the form of an annotated bibliography.

Key findings and themes include:

  • There has been little non-state political violence in Jordan since the 2005 Amman bombings. Individuals and groups that have turned to such violence have remained in small numbers (there are an estimated 1,000 to 2,000 jihadist Salafis in the country).
  • Even ideological support for such violence is not enough to make individuals actually use violence, as the difference between quietist and jihadist Salafis shows. Some Jordanian and foreign actors have also exaggerated the risk posed by Salafists (Yom & al-Khatib, 2014).
  • Drivers of recruitment into jihadist Salafist groups remain debated. Individual life experiences and backgrounds shape people’s paths into, within, and out of jihadi Salafism. Repression and surveillance are mentioned as having opposite effects for different persons and contexts: in some cases, they have reinforced jihadists’ commitment to their ideology and groups, whereas in other cases they have led people to retreat from violent action.
  • Sociologically, most jihadist Salafists have been of low economic and educational background. Jihadi Salafist groups have been strong in Zarqa; Salt; Ma’an; Irbid (especially in Palestinian refugee camps); and several sectors in Amman (especially in poorer neighbourhoods in eastern and southern Amman).
  • Understanding the history of jihadist Salafist movement, and its current legacies in terms of recruitment and legitimacy, is important. The movement that rose in the early 1990s, was largely delegitimised by the 2005 bombings, but continues to operate minimally. Continuities include its involvement in violence committed abroad, and the role that repression and surveillance, low membership, and internal disagreements seem to play in limiting violence.
  • Powerful structural factors have prevented radicalisation towards non-state political violence, some coming from the regime, others from Jordanian society. The most widely named factors are: rent distribution, co-optation, State repression, social divisions (especially between East Bankers and Jordanians of Palestinian origin), and middle-class aspirations. Some of these factors are paradoxical, both preventing a turn towards violence and feeding into conditions that lead individuals to non-state political violence.


Suggested citation

Combaz, E. (2015). Radicalisation towards non-state political violence in Jordan (GSDRC Helpdesk Research Report 1265). Birmingham, UK: GSDRC, University of Birmingham.