Anna's Internship Independent Research | USA/Jordan
Week 10: Wrapping Up
August 7th, 2020
Hello readers! This will be my last entry on my blog this summer, and I'm so grateful for everyone who's been following along with my research experience this summer. To say the least, my research journey and summer did not turn out like I thought they would. I was supposed to be in Jordan for two months collecting my data on the ground, but alas, COVID-19 had other plans for me. Something I've learned in research is that you have to be flexible: obstacles will always come your way, and all you can do is just adapt.
I'm so grateful to have had the opportunity to blog this summer as an AGS fellow because blogging was a great way to work through my thoughts on my research and reflect on what I'd done each week. I know some blogs were more interesting than others, and they weren't always filled with information about countering violent extremism (CVE) in Jordan, but I wanted to share my real research experience, and explain the glamorous parts (like data collection) and the less glamorous parts (like getting IRB approval). I highly recommend doing a thesis or research project like this one if you get the chance, I think it's a great way to delve into something you're intellectually curious about, and you have the opportunity to learn how to do research in a safe environment with lots of mentorship (thank you to my advisors, Dr. Schanzer and Dr. Ginsburg).
If you do choose to begin a research project, here are five tips I wish I'd known when I started mine:
- Most important: your research project will change and evolve, it won't be the same as when you started, you need to be flexible and change your research questions and data collection methods, because data isn't always as available as you might thing
- Ask for help! Getting another pair of eyes on your research is so helpful, especially if you're stuck, or worried you can't do something
- Get started on your IRB early, the process takes a long time, especially if you're researching a topic that's sensitive like (counter)terrorism
- Reflect on your research process every week, it helps you define your progress and future goals
- Don't take it too seriously! It's okay to make mistakes and feel like you don't know what you're doing, you're young and you're learning!
Thanks again to all my readers, I hope you learned something about CVE in Jordan and the movement around the world to make CVE more gender inclusive and gender focused, and hopefully more successful. I think this movement will only gain traction as programming is implemented that includes women in CVE strategy, and as those programs become more successful, women will be included at higher rates.
I hope you have a happy, safe, and successful semester. Best of luck!
Week 8-9: Synthesizing Secondary Sources
July 31st, 2020
Hi everyone and welcome back to my blog! I apologize that that I didn't post one last week, I've been in Narragansett, Rhode Island for the past two weeks at my Grandma's house. She doesn't have wifi, which makes working and doing research a bit tougher. But I do feel lucky to have had lots of time to read in my internet-less past two weeks, some of which I've done for my thesis. Below, I'll share some of my initial findings in response to my research question, "how can women contribute to countering violent extremism (CVE) efforts/strategy/policy in Jordan?"
One of the most helpful studies I've found that examines women and CVE in Jordan is a report by the United Nations and Jordanian National Commission for Women entitled "Women and Violent Radicalization in Jordan". Although I've ready many studies on women and CVE, this report was the most Jordan specific and cohesive in terms of its points, and generally other reports I read came to similar conclusions, although they didn't spell them out as clearly as this report did. I am sharing my findings from this report because I think it both generalizes and sums up my overall findings well from my reading of secondary sources (literature).
In the report, "violent radicalization" refers to the process through which a person comes to embrace violence or violent ideology as a tool to achieve a religious or political goal. Often times, these violent acts or ideologies are forms of (violent) extremism, and terrorism. The report used a combination of a literature review, 47 interviews, and a discussion group in order to come to its analysis. In short, the report found that women both contribute to violent extremism by joining violent extremist organizations themselves or encouraging the men in their families to do so, and women counter violent extremism by engaging in government programs to work to counter violent extremism in their communities, or they use their roles as wives, mothers, and sisters within the familial unit to dissuade the (usually) male members of their families from radicalizing and joining violent extremist groups.
While all of those interviewed identified radicalization to terrorism as an important issue, 85% believed radicalization was occurring within Jordanian communities and 74% believed radicalization was occurring at universities. Only 38% indicated women in particular are at risk of radicalizing, but 71% believed women are highly affected by radicalization and terrorism within their communities, noting that women's rights are often the first to be affected by the increasingly conservative ideologies that often accompany violent extremist groups, and that women feel responsible when their children or husbands join violent groups.
I was pleased to see there was interest among interviewees in participating in deradicalization/ CVE efforts, as this bodes well for my hypothesis which states women do have a significant role to play in CVE, and will participate in those roles as agents in CVE if given the opportunity (although the Jordanian government isn't taking full advantage of that possibility at this time). The study found that 79% of interviewees confirmed they would be willing to participate in deradicalization programs (whether run by the government or not), and 95% confirmed they would be willing to join deradicalization programs run by international organizations. I found this discrepancy interesting: that there appears to be more confidence in international organizations running deradicalization/ counterterrorism efforts than the national government or local organizations doing so.
I was also pleased to read almost all interviewees believed women do have a role to play in deradicalization and CVE, an opinion which is more novel than you might think given women's roles as traditionally inferior to men and their general lack of participation in government workforce and programs. I was not surprised however, to learn that most Jordanians believed women would be most helpful in their domestic roles to deradicalize individuals, as they are able to catch warning signs for radicalization and joining terrorist groups much earlier than the larger community or the government. Most surprising to me was that there are already some government programs in place to empower women as agents in CVE. Most of these programs are in Amman and the women participating in the programs are working professional types.
This leads me to wonder how to expand these programs to women who are homemakers or live in more rural areas outside of urban, highly educated Amman.
Attaching the study here if you want to read the whole thing: https://www.unwomen.org/en/digital-library/publications/2016/7/women-and-violent-radicalization-in-jordan
Happy last day of July. Thanks for reading!
Week 7: Doing a Thesis in Two Departments
July 16th, 2020
Hi all! Welcome back to my blog. I am excited to share that I have recently confirmed with the Asian and Middle Eastern Studies (AMES) Department that I am going to be doing an Honor's Thesis with them in addition to my honor's thesis through Sanford. I am double majoring in public policy and AMES, and I am stoked to have the opportunity to do a thesis in both of my majors. Luckily, my project on "Women as Agents of Countering Extremism" is applicable to both disciplines, as I'll be able to draw both policy (for PPS) and cultural and historical (AMES) conclusions from this project. This means I can use the same data set (YAY!) but it also means I'll have to write two different honor's thesis papers.
The AMES thesis timeline is a semester behind Sanford's, as it's the two semesters of senior year instead of spring semester of junior year and fall or senior year like Sanford's timeline. But, for AMES, you already have to have your proposal submitted to begin the thesis process, which is different than PPS, where you come up with the proposal throughout your first semester in the program. As AMES is a humanities discipline, literature plays a very important role in the construction of the proposal. I have been very lucky that Dr. Shai Ginsburg has agreed to be my AMES thesis advisor, and he has been working with me to develop a comprehensive bibliography for my project. He has suggested a couple texts for me to read such as, Jabiri’s Gendered Politics and Law in Jordan, Adely's Gendered paradoxes : educating Jordanian women in nation, faith, and progress, Hussein's, From victims to suspects: Muslim women since 9/11 and two of our own Duke Professors' books: Ellen Mclarney’s book Soft force: Women in Egypt's Islamic awakening and Frances Hasso's book Resistance, repression, and gender politics in occupied Palestine and Jordan.
I've been reading a book a week for Dr. Ginsburg and writing him a blog (I'll be an expert blogger by the end of the summer) about my reading, reflecting on the main points of the reading, and applying the reading to my project. For a summer that began boring and dry, I've certainly found a lot to keep me busy recently.
I am grateful for the opportunity to do two theses on the same topic because I think the two lenses, policy and culture, that I am encouraged to look through for my majors, complement each other well, and each project makes the other project stronger. PPS helps me understand construction and implications of counterterrorism policy in Jordan, and how those policies affect people, and whether they are or aren't successful, and AMES helps me understand the context of those policies: how culture influences policy, why people are reacting the way that they are to policy, how women identify as agents of change in Jordan (or don't) and if they would want to engage in counterterrorism policy in Jordan if given the opportunity.
Anyway, we'll see in December and April if I was actually successful in executing two theses, but for now, I'm excited. Thanks for reading!
Week 6: Beginning Data Collection
July 9th, 2020
Hello readers! I am excited to announce I have a couple research updates (finally)! My IRB has officially been approved, which means I know have permission to begin my research/data collection. To anyone planning on conducting a research project in the future- don't underestimate how long an IRB can take to get approved, as it can be awhile. But when that IRB is approved, you feel ready to begin your research because you've already had to put so much thought into your research project. For example, the IRB even gave me a script I can use when reaching out to interviewees. This will serve as initial email to see if I can get responses, and more details about the specificities and context of my project will be given later. Here's a copy of my script:
I am an American student doing research about how women can contribute to counterterrorism efforts in Jordan. I heard from (person x) that you/your organization know/s a lot about counterterrorism in Jordan and I am hoping I can interview you for around 30 minutes to ask you some questions about women’s roles in counterterrorism efforts in Jordan. I am writing a paper for my university in the United States about my research in Jordan. I am available (insert dates) and am able to meet over Zoom.
I have also been given permission to translate this script into Arabic if need be. While the language might seem simple or repetitive, I have learned this is a good strategy because English is usually not people's first language, and my intentions are clearly stated.
I am also lucky to have a mentor in Jordan who helped me with initial project on countering violent extremism in Jordan, and is helping me with this project too. He is so interesting, and I learn a lot from him. He also has the great spirit of Jordanian hospitality and willingness to help people in need. He served as a counterterrorism lawyer in Jordan for many years, participating in questioning accused terrorists who had been put on trial (although they weren't always found guilty) about their actions and ideologies. He has been, and continues to be, instrumental in helping me navigate the counterterrorism and intelligence communities in Jordan.
For security reasons, I unfortunately won't be able to list the names or positions of people I will be interviewing in this blog, as counterterrorism strategy is sensitive information and I would never want to put anyone's jobs or livelihoods at risk, and it's always better to stay on the safe side. I will try to share general information I learn though, as I begin to gather my data!
Thanks for reading and have a great day.
Week 4-5: Providing more Context for my Research
June 29, 2020
Hi all! As always, thank you for reading my blog. I don't have any new research updates at this time, so I wanted to provide a bit more information about counterterrorism in Jordan, to give my readers more context for my project.
While Jordan is a leader in counterterrorism in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), it has experienced its fair share of violence. Jordan has suffered from a variety of attacks at the hands of violent extremism, including the 2005 Amman bombings, and the terrorist attacks on the General Intelligence Directorate (GID), and Irbid, Ruwaidshid, and Karak in 2016, which combined killed 35 people and injured countless others. In 2018 six people died in Salt and one in Madaba at the hands of extremists. (Sanchez, 2018)
Jordan is also home to the highest, or second highest number of foreign fighters per capita in the region, and between 2011 and 2015, around 3000 to 4000 Jordanians traveled to the conflict zone in Syria and Iraq to join violent extremist groups, most often ISIS. (Speckhard, 2017)
However, Jordan is also very effective in terms of countering violent extremism (CVE) strategy. While in Jordan in 2019, I did a series of interviews which better helped me understand CVE in Jordan. Here's a bit of what I learned-
CVE policy in Jordan takes three main forms. The most common CVE policy is programs run through mosques. The CVE programs run through mosques are conducted by imams, who are trained to preach the true values of Islam and trained to recognize initial signs of radicalization from those attending their khutbah (khutbah is the Arabic word for sermon). Second, awareness campaigns are conducted at both the community level, and on the internet, to explain extremist ideologies and reveal their shortcomings, ignorance about Islam, and the harm they cause. Awareness campaigns can take several forms and are the most visible of the three main methods of CVE in Jordan. Awareness campaigns also exist at the local community level, including campaigns run through schools, neighborhoods, sports organizations etc. CVE through the internet includes deactivating terrorist sites, deleting content that promotes violent extremist ideologies, and creating social media campaigns with accurate information about Islam or social media campaigns to dispel terrorist ideologies. The third main program run is through prisons, where imams and important community members go to prisons where already radicalized individuals are held to operate workshops about the true values of Islam. (Klingensmith, 2019)
While Jordanian CVE policies such as training imams, educating radicalized prisoners and building awareness campaigns are successful, Jordanian CVE policy lacks significant female participation. The UN and other bodies have recently begun to pay increasing attention to the role of gender in CVE, stating that women are invaluable to the success of CVE programs worldwide. In Jordan and the Middle East where the gender gap index is highest in the world (World Economic Forum, Global Gender Gap Index, 2020), women are in a particularly disenfranchised position, and empowering women, even in the slightest, by giving them tools, trainings, and knowledge about how to prevent violent extremism could make an enormous impact (Aoláin, 2013).
As you can see, there's a lot of room for improvement here in terms of making Jordanian CVE policy more effective by involving women. I am excited to see where my project takes me, and excited that you all are along for the ride. As always, thanks for reading, and I'm attaching some citations below for more reading if you're interested.
Aoláin, F. N. (2013). SITUATING WOMEN IN COUNTERTERRORISM DISCOURSES: UNDULATING MASCULINITIES AND LUMINAL FEMININITIES. Boston University Law Review, 93(3), 1085-1122. Retrieved from https://login.proxy.lib.duke.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/1433777939?accountid=10598
“Global Gender Gap Report 2020.” World Economic Forum , January 2020. http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_GGGR_2020.pdf.
Klingensmith, Anna. “The Role of Local Communities in Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism (P/CVE) in Jordan,” 2019. https://digitalcollections.sit.edu/isp_collection/3153
Sanchez, Victoria. “Lights and Shadows of Jordan's Counterterrorism Strategy.” The Spanish Institute for Strategic Studies , November 29, 2018. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Victoria_Silva_Sanchez/publication/334000181_Lights_and_shadows_of_Jordan's_counterterrorism_strategy/links/5d124968a6fdcc2462a5ca74/Lights-and-shadows-of-Jordans-counterterrorism-strategy.pdf.
Speckhard , Anne. “The Jihad in Jordan: Drivers of Radicalization into Violent Extremism in Jordan.” ISCVE Research Reports , March 25, 2017. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/315827598_The_Jihad_in_Jordan_Drivers_of_Radicalization_into_Violent_Extremism_in_Jordan.
Week 3: Interview Questions
June 19, 2020
As my IRB process wraps up, I have shifted my attention to my interview questions. These questions will guide my interview process, although I might deviate from them if the interviewee is talking about something I'm particularly interested in as a tangent from one of my guiding questions. However, each interviewee will be asked each of the questions on this list to ensure uniformity and fairness in my data collection. I plan for my interviewees to include counterterrorism lawyers, counterterrorism professors, people from the Jordanian intelligence community, imams, community organizers, and female homemakers. Hopefully I am able to get in touch and secure interviews with enough people, everything is less certain given COVID and that I am conducting this research remotely instead of on the ground, as I had originally planned.
Here are my interview questions, split into themes for organization (they might change as I continue to work on my project, although I imagine they won't change much):
- Context Questions
- How would you describe violent extremism in Jordan? On a scale of 1-10 (1 being not a problem at all and 10 being a large problem) how much of a problem do you think violent extremism is in Jordan?
- Do you think that violent extremism is a bigger problem in Jordan than in other Middle Eastern countries, why or why not?
- Do you think that women have equal rights as men do in Jordan? Do you think that women participate in government work at the same rate that men do? Why or why not?
- What are the barriers for women in terms of involvement in government initiatives and projects (if they exist?)
- Theme 1: General Awareness?
○ Are women in Jordan aware of any CVE efforts around them/ is CVE important to them/ do they care about CVE at all?
■ If the government reached out to them with training or tools would they care or be engaged?
■ If not generally engaged, how could we engage them/ make CVE important to them?
- Theme 2: How are women currently contributing to CVE efforts in Jordan (if at all)?
○ What do those efforts look like?
■ Are women already involved in general CVE efforts in Jordan and how so?
■ Are there awareness campaigns targeted at educating women about violent extremism in Jordan? (What initial signs of radicalization look like, how to talk to husbands/sons etc)
■ Does the government hold any classes where women can go through training or develop a skill set to counter violent extremism in the home?
■ Are there any community organizations that work on CVE?
- Theme 3: Where is there room for improvement/ is Jordan in a place where women could be more involved?
○ Would the government be open to more female involvement in CVE?
○ How could the government reach women effectively with CVE messaging?
■ Messages through imams at mosques?
■ Awareness campaign posters at gyms and salons?
As always, thanks for reading, happy Friday, and a very happy Juneteenth.
Week 2: The Institutional Review Board (IRB) Process
June 10, 2020
In the last week, my main focus has been finishing and sending off my Institutional Review Board (IRB) paperwork to be approved. I am excited to announce after three drafts of my IRB, I have finally sent it to be reviewed and it's out of my hands now, which is a great feeling. While the IRB seems tedious, it's actually a very important process. The purpose of the IRB approval is so that both the supporting institution (Duke in this case) and the researcher (myself) can be assured that the proposed research will be ethically conducted.
In the context of my project, there are various things I need to do to make sure my research is conducted ethically, Most importantly, I have to make sure to keep the names of my interviewees anonymous, given the sensitivity of the information I'll be receiving (the national security/ counterterrorism strategy of a foreign government). I also will not list specific years worked or positions held to make sure I am not giving anyone away. I won't be recording my interviews either, as this is inappropriate in Jordanian culture, which means I'll have to be a sharp and focused note-taker. Also important will be explaining to my interviewees the reason I am conducting interviews (for my senior thesis), what I'll be doing with the information (writing a paper), and making sure they consent to be interviewed.
I am thankful for the IRB process because it really challenged me to iron out wrinkles in my research plan, and to make sure I was thinking about how my research and writing could both harm, but more importantly, benefit others. It also challenged me to think more deeply about the type of people I want to be interviewing and the sort of questions I'll be asking. I also had to lay out a plan of how I'm going to be finding and contacting my interviewees. Right now, I am planning on using the contacts I built during my time in Jordan last fall, and then using a snowball-sampling method, asking each interviewee to recommend two or three other people I could get in touch with. All of this would be much easier, especially contacting people, if I were physically in Jordan, but oh well, sometimes in research we experience roadblocks that help us become even more resilient and crafty.
Thanks for tuning in, happy hump day!
Week 1: An Intro to my Thesis
June 1, 2020
My name is Anna Klingensmith, and I'm a rising senior, double majoring in Public Policy and Asian and Middle Eastern Studies. I am excited to have the opportunity to complete a thesis for my majors, and I am even more excited to be an AGS fellow this summer and to be able to share my thesis research journey with you all.
The working title of my thesis is "Women and Countering Violent Extremism Policy in Jordan". Accordingly, my central research question asks how women can contribute to Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) policy and efforts in Jordan.
The idea behind my thesis is inspired by the time I spent in Jordan during fall semester 2019. I lived in the country's capital, Amman, and studied under the School for International Training's "Geopolitics, International Relations, and the Future of the Middle East" program. While I was in Jordan, I was able to conduct a small research project with the support of my program, and I chose to examine the role that local communities play in preventing and countering violent extremism in Jordan. I chose this topic because I am fascinated by CVE policy, which emphasizes building community resilience and other soft power approaches to combat extremism, instead of traditional militaristic, "boots on the ground" approaches. I found that local communities do play a significant role in CVE, especially in terms of administering and supporting local programs run through mosques, schools, and prisons to educate Jordanians on the failings of extremist ideologies, and to foster community cohesion to prevent the type of alienation that leads to extremism. For my thesis at Duke I wanted to narrow my scope and instead of looking at the role of local communities as a whole, examine the role of women specifically in terms of CVE, as I've been reading interesting publications lately which emphasize the potential role women can play in CVE, if given the education and tools, and if governments give them the opportunity.(https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/topics_168106.htm?).
This week my main goals for my project are to have my Internal Review Board (IRB) form approved so that I can begin to do my research, and to polish my interview questions. I expect my next steps will be to begin building contacts for people to interview, which will take some time. Wish me luck!