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University of California Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation

As Governments Dither on COVID-19, Jihadists and Gang Leaders Step In

April 15, 2020
Gregoire Phillips


In analysis for Political Violence At A Glance, an IGCC-supported online magazine dedicated to political violence and its alternatives, Gregoire Phillips, a Ph.D. candidate at UCSD and IGCC Herb York Dissertation Fellow, analyzes the response of armed non-state actors to the COVID-19 pandemic.

We live in a strange time. Through a combination of online, radio, and newsprint announcements, several prominent jihadist groups, including the Islamic State, the Taliban, and several al-Qaeda affiliates, have presented official responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. In Afghanistan, the Taliban stepped in before the government to offer public health guidelines and local support in areas under their control, and even in government-controlled territory through limited cooperation with government forces. In Brazil, some gang leaders operating in favelas largely outside the government’s policing power announced curfews and social distancing guidelines on the same week that the country’s president downplayed the crisis and refused to enact a public health response.

This is puzzling. Non-state armed groups often lack the resources and credibility to mount an effective public health response. ISIS doesn’t have a Centers for Disease Control. Brazilian gangs aren’t known for their deep reserves of healthcare experts.

Why are some jihadist and criminal leaders responding more swiftly, and taking COVID-19 more seriously, than dozens of government leaders?

Read the full article at Political Violence At A Glance.