Conference Announcement on Religious Extremism in Syria

The University of Vienna, Near Eastern Department, initiated last February with the Terrorism Research Initiative (TRI) the Syrian Engagement Project. The first conference was held in early February in Vienna where we sought to empower local Syrian political activists on the first day with a broader perspective on the second day, bringing together senior members of the Syrian opposition. For the first conference, we sought to provide a framework and a open floor for civil-society activists and the opposition to talk about their perspective and past experiences from a multitude of perspectives. TRI has recently published a conference report, available here.

As part of this series, a second conference will be held in Vienna on May 2, 2014. The theme of the second conference is, however, strictly related to security matters with the focus set on religious extremist groups in Syria, from both a Sunni and Shiite perspective. The conference Religious Extremism in Syria: A New Launching Pad for Global Terrorism? seeks to enable participants and speakers to engage in an open environment on how to deal with the implications of the turmoil in Syria.

The rise of confessional warfare and the effective recruitment of foreign fighters from the greater Middle East, Europe and beyond to join militant factions in Syria have implications far beyond the current conflict zones. The professional use of Social Media to attract young males for the cause and to raise funds has reached an unprecedented dimension that could perhaps transform Syria into a similar, if not worse, launching pad for global terrorism than Afghanistan. This one-day conference seeks to provide insight into a set of overlapping issues surrounding the Syrian conflict and its implications for Europe and the international community. The conference will bring together an interdisciplinary set of speakers to provide insight into extremist and other militant actors in the conflict and the implications for regional and international security.

The conference agenda with the speaker abstracts and bios is available as a pdf here.


09:00   Registration

09:30   Opening remarks, introductions, programme review, and administrative announcements by Nico Prucha

09:45   Tom Keatinge, Independent Analyst, “The Syrian Conflict and the Importance of Financing.”

10:15   Maura Conway, Dublin City University, “Assessing the Role of Social Media in the Syria Conflict.”

10:45   Tea and coffee break with oriental snacks

11:15   Joas Wagemakers, Radboud University Nijmegen, “Jordanian Salafis and the Syrian Conflict.”

11:45   Rüdiger Lohlker, University of Vienna, “True Romance: A New Paradigm for Jihadis in Syria and Beyond?”

12:15   Morning panel discussion

13:00   Lunch break

14:00   Nico Prucha, University of Vienna, “The Sectarian Divide in Syria as the Rationale of The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria to Indoctrinate, Radicalize and Recruit Foreign Fighters”

14:30   Mahan Abedin, Dysart Consulting, “The Role of IRGC Qods Cops as Force Multiplier in the Syrian War.”

15:00   Tea and Coffee break with light snacks

15:30   Iranian Embassy Representative (Invited, TBC)

16:00   Syrian Embassy Representative (Invited, TBC)

16:30   Robert Wesley, Terrorism Research Initiative, “Why Egypt Matters in the Context of the Current Syrian Civil War.”

17:00   Afternoon panel discussion

18:00   Concluding Remarks and Farewell

Due to limited seating at the venue, registration for this event is mandatory. The Registration Fee for the Conference is 40 EUR/   per prospective attendee, which includes a light lunch of Middle Eastern food. To register, please purchase your ticket here:


Payment in cash at the venue is also possible.

For any issues regarding registration, please contact Nico Prucha (nico.prucha (at) univie.ac.at)

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