Foreign Fighters under International Law and Beyond

pp 9-25


Foreign Fighters in the Syria and Iraq Conflict: Statistics and Characteristics of a Rapidly Growing Phenomenon

  • Edwin BakkerAffiliated withInternational Centre for Counter-Terrorism Email author 
  • , Mark SingletonAffiliated withInternational Centre for Counter-Terrorism

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


This chapter focuses on the statistics and characteristics of foreign fighters of all sides of the conflict in Syria and Iraq, and the reasons for this phenomenon as well as some general policy responses in the countries from which these fighters originate. First, the authors provide a short historical background of foreign fighters and a definition of the term, which is used throughout this book. Next, it describes the rapidly growing numbers and characteristics of these fighters in Syria and Iraq. Finally, adding up the various assessments, the authors arrive at a combined estimate of a total number of more than 30,000 foreign fighters of all sorts for the entire conflict in Syria and Iraq since 2011.


Statistics Characteristics Foreign Fighters Historical background Proxy war Trends Country of origin Definitions Islamic State Terrorism Transit country Transnational threat