Author Biography

Anne Speckhard, Ph.D. is Adjunct Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Georgetown University in the School of Medicine and Director of the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism (ICSVE) where she heads the Breaking the ISIS Brand Counter Narratives Project. Dr. Speckhard has interviewed nearly 600 terrorists, their family members and supporters in various parts of the world including Gaza, West Bank, Chechnya, Iraq, Jordan, Turkey, the Balkans and many countries in Europe.

Ardian Shajkovci, Ph.D. is the Director of Research and a Senior Research Fellow at the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism. He has conducted field research on violent extremism and terrorism in the Middle East, Africa, the Balkans, and Central Asia. He is also an Adjunct Professor at Nichols College teaching counterterrorism and cybersecurity courses.

Mohamed Ahmed is a research fellow at ICSVE researching Somali responses in the United States, Europe and Somalia to the ICSVE’s Breaking the ISIS Brand Counter Narrative video clips. Mohamed earned his Master’s in Postsecondary Educational Leadership from San Diego State University and is currently pursuing his doctorate in Education.



Subject Area Keywords

Counterterrorism, Homeland security, National security, North America, Radicalization, Security studies, Social media, Terrorism / counterterrorism, Violent extremism


Research focused on measuring attitudes towards violent extremist groups and the appeal of violent extremist ideologies among the vulnerable communities in the United States remains under-researched. This focus group research attempts to close such a research gap. In May of 2018, International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism (ICSVE) researchers focus tested ICSVE-produced counter-narratives with Somali-American youth in San Diego, CA, namely with Somali-American youth convened at the East African Cultural Community Center and the premises of San Diego State University. In addition to raising awareness about the dangers of joining violent extremist groups like Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) and lending promising evidence that speaks to the quality and authenticity of our counter-narratives, this article presents a methodological argument, or a case study, in the use of counter narratives as an effective Counter Violent Extremism (CVE) tool. The use of counter narratives also served to start important conversations and engage with the Somali American community in a way that could open a path towards testing our counter-narrative content among those whom we might be able to detect a more substantial persuasive effect.


The International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism thanks the Embassy of Qatar in Washington, D.C. and Facebook for their partial support to the Breaking the ISIS Brand Counter Narrative Project.