Russia has raised questions in the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) over the growing popularity of so-called “jihad tourism” among the European middle class, Ilya Rogachev, director of the department of new challenges and threats at the Russian Foreign Ministry, told RIA Novosti.
"There has been a unifying factor recently – jihad tourism. People from various countries of the world that would seem not to be involved in the conflict situation go somewhere to fight a war, and most of them believe it is 'in the name of faith.' Often, those are not the miserable and desperate, but the middle class, educated people that have families, work, stable income, homes," Rogachev said.
The popularity of jihad tourism became apparent during the Syrian conflict.
"In the case of Syria, this phenomenon gained an unprecedented scale. Hundreds and hundreds of people from various regions, including Europe, headed to Syria and the neighboring countries swept in conflicts to train," the Russian diplomat said.
Moscow has been trying to bring the issue to the attention of international organizations, including the UN and the OSCE, Rogachev said, adding that some of them approached the issue politically.
The UN General Assembly passed a resolution confirming the UN’s Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, approved in 2006, and addressed the issue of jihad tourism, Rogachev said.
"But we still have to overcome some resistance: the Westerners prefer to solve these issues among themselves. At the same time, they don't want to talk to Syrian authorities. And how, in this case, do we fight jihadists that go to Syria and come back to their countries from Syria? We try to serve as 'fair brokers' and maintain a nonpolitical international dialogue," Rogachev said.
Syria has been torn by civil war for more than three years. One of the gravest humanitarian crises in modern times, the conflict has claimed the lives of tens of thousands of people.