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Terrorism research was an emotionally draining experience

Not easy, says PhD student, who interviewed 50 Jihadists for her thesis

On a personal level, writing a PhD thesis about Jihadism is no walk in the park. Interviewing Jihadists, and observing terrorism trials proved to be a challenging experience for Ann-Sophie Hemmingsen.

»In the beginning it was emotionally difficult, I was being confronted with a world I did not know,« said Ann-Sophie as she defended her thesis.

Read the article Not every Jihadist is a terrorist here.

Would-be informants wouldn’t speak to a woman

Ann-Sophie spoke to 50 informants. Most of them were young men, all Jihadists and either on trial, connected to the people that were being charged, or there as supporters.

But Ann-Sophie was not able talk to everyone she had hoped to.

Some refused to be interviewed by her because she is a woman. Others said they were not permitted to be alone with a woman whom they did not know, and brought someone else with them to the interview.

Didn’t challenge their views

But her advisors, her co-worker Dr. Manni Crone, and her family and colleagues were supportive when the process affected her.

»It was very important to be able to talk to someone. We could even joke about all of this, as a coping strategy,« responded Ann-Sophie, when asked about how she dealt with her feelings.

When talking to her informants she never challenged their views or tried to change them. She said that it would have been stupid because you never know how a person reacts to that.

Never afraid

Ann-Sophie listened to individuals that were on trial for planning terrorism in Denmark. These people were being accused of serious offenses. Ann-Sophie heard them and the other informants talk openly about Jihad and sensitive issues that are very important to them.

During this time she felt really challenged but she knew that her task was just to record what they said. Ann-Sophie was therefore not scared during any situation.

»I never felt afraid for my own safety« Ann-Sophie said during her thesis defense.

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