Revival of jihadism in the Netherlands

The AIVD has observed a revival in jihadism in the Netherlands in recent years. One catalyst is the conflict in Syria, but other developments are also playing their part. These are described in the report The transformation of jihadism in the Netherlands: swarm dynamics and new strength.

Old networks have professionalised since 2010 and gained a new focus: travel to join the jihad in other parts of the world. Radical groups have also become more vocal, explicitly propounding the jihadist message at demonstrations and through leafleting activities. The use of social media ensures rapid and widespread dissemination of their propaganda.

The current Dutch jihadist movement is characterised by its "swarm" dynamic. Participants share the same ideology, and their guidance is a collective phenomenon. There are some "choreographers" in the background, but for the most part influence is exercised mutually, on a peer-to-peer basis. The loss of one or more members would not cause the group as a whole to collapse.

Reduced resilience

In the new publication, the AIVD also reports that resilience against jihadist forces has declined. Countering radicalisation has become less of a priority for government. Opposing voices within the Muslim community have been silenced. The emergence of new young preachers has led to the use of more radical religious texts. Combined with the rapid spread of jihadist propaganda, the result has been more widespread radicalisation, on a larger scale.

Syria as catalyst

The number of Dutch jihadists travelling to Syria to join the conflict there has increased substantially since late 2012. About 130 have left so far, almost thirty have already returned and fourteen have been killed in the fighting. The AIVD counts several hundred people in the Netherlands as supporters of this exodus, including a number who are prepared to make the journey but have yet to do so. They are maintaining a constant stream of propaganda in support of the jihadist ideology and so contributing to wider radicalisation. Several thousand people support the cause.

The AIVD believes that fighters returning from Syria pose a potential risk. They have witnessed acts of extreme violence, or even take part themselves. They may also be traumatised. It is not inconceivable that international jihadist organisations are sending returnees back to Europe with orders to carry out terrorist attacks here.


The report warns of the danger that different sections of the Dutch population will become more polarised. This includes a risk of wider divisions within the Muslim community. The civil war in Syria is increasingly being framed as a Sunni-Shia conflict, a representation which has repercussions for Muslims in the Netherlands.

The dynamics of jihadism are so complex that countering them requires intensive national and international co-operation. The AIVD, the National Co-ordinator for Counterterrorism and Security (NCTV), local authorities and various government departments, including the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment, are working closely together to respond to current developments. The Minister of Security and Justice has recently written to Parliament about the government's approach to jihadism and radicalisation.

The AIVD gathers, interprets and analyses information for practical use by other relevant bodies, our chain partners.