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Bart Schuurman receives Veni Grant: Who do not become terrorists?

Bart Schuurman, Assistant Professor at the Institute of Security and Global Affairs in The Hague, has received a Veni grant which will allow him to continue his research into the radicalisation of terrorists for the next three years. ‘In order to better understand terrorists, I will focus on the large group of radicalised individuals who do not take that next step towards violence,’ explains Schuurman.

Bart Schuurman
Bart Schuurman

What will you focus on?

‘At the end of my PhD, I knew a lot more about the Dutch Hofstad terrorist group and its participants but what frustrated me was that I hadn’t found a good answer as to why, out of a group of 40 radicalised individuals, ‘only’ a handful actually took that next step towards violence. What was it that held the others back? Why didn’t they put their words into action? This is what got the ball rolling and eventually led to my Veni application.’

I wrote a proposal in 2017 that focussed on the question why most individuals who are on the path towards radicalisation do not get involved with terrorism. I believe that we should not only be looking at the risk factors but also at the ‘shielding factors’ that deter the majority of radicalised individuals from choosing violence.’

Who benefits from your research?

‘My research is a contribution to the scientific research that is already available and continues to build on that. In order to truly make progress in this field, to better understand how being involved in terrorism works, we need to do more than just look at that small group who actually become terrorists. I hope that by looking into why something does not happen we will come up with some surprising new information.’

In addition, understanding the shielding factors that deter individuals from becoming terrorists provides new tools to professionals working to prevent radicalisation and terrorists. A better understanding of why certain individuals are more likely to actually taking the step towards violence is also relevant for the police and intelligence agencies.’

What is your background?


‘I completed in the Master programme ‘International Relations from a Historic Perspective’ a at the University of Utrecht. Which is what got me interested in asymmetric conflicts and terrorism. I got lucky and was able to continue working with my thesis supervisor as research assistant on a project that focussed on the effectiveness of counterterrorist measures. During my time working as research assistant, I came into contact with Edwin Bakker who was about to become a professor at Leiden University working at the newly founded Centre for Terrorism and Counterterrorism which is now ISGA. I started working there in 2011 and never left.’

‘During the first years, I worked on a project that focussed on the ways in which terrorists prepare their attacks. After that, I continued my research but this time looking at loners. This was part of the EU FP7 project we participated in. I used the time that remained next to those two projects to start a PhD project on how and why people might become involved in terrorism. It specifically focussed on the Dutch Hofstad group, responsible for the murder of the Dutch film producer and critic Theo van Gogh in November 2004. I obtained my PhD in 2017.

Venis are awarded every year by NWO and together with the Vidi and Vici grants they are part of an innovative research incentive called ‘Vernieuwingsimpuls’. Excellent researchers who have recently obtained their PhD are eligible for a Veni. NWO selects researchers based on the quality of the researcher, the innovative character of their research, the expected scientific impact of their research proposal and the possibilities for knowledge utilization.

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