Bullets to Ballots

Collective De-Radicalisation of Armed Movements

Edited by Omar Ashour

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Investigates how and why armed organisations transform into unarmed activist movements

  • Analyses 20 case studies of transformation from 16 countries: Egypt, Iraq, Algeria, Libya, Syria, Spain, the UK, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, South Africa, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Uruguay, El Salvador and Nicaragua
  • Offers a rare cross-regional, qualitative–comparative approach utilising personal interviews with the representatives of organisations inspired by religious-based, leftist, ethno-nationalist and nationalist ideologies
  • Includes first-hand de-radicalisation leader testimonies
  • Contributes to our understanding of democratic transition, ending civil wars, peacebuilding, countering violent extremism, counterinsurgency and counterterrorism

De-radicalisation is a global phenomenon where armed organisations transform into political parties or non-violent social movements. Bullets to Ballots explores the different trajectories that this process can take – whether it occurs after a military victory, a military defeat, or a draw in an armed conflict between insurgent groups and incumbent authorities.

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  1. Revisiting Collective De-Radicalisation: A Comparative Perspective
    Omar Ashour
  2. Lessons from South Africa: A First-hand Testimony
    Ronnie Kasrils
  3. The Collective De-Radicalisation of the Islamic Group in Egypt: A First-hand Testimony
    Osama Rushdi
  4. From Arms to Talks: Transformations of Three Syrian Armed Islamist Movements
    Hamzah Almustafa
  5. The Mahdi Army and the Sadrist Movement in Iraq: The Struggle for Transformation
    Haider Saeed
  6. A Draw or a Defeat? How the IRA Transitioned from Bullets to Ballots
    Gordon Clubb
  7. Transformations and Defeats: ETA and the End of the Armed Campaign
    Nick Hutcheon
  8. The Afghan Taliban and The Peace Negotiations: Are the Taliban ‘De-radicalising’?
    Thomas H. Johnson
  9. Transformations after ‘Defeats’: The Cases of the Tupamaros and the Armed Left in Latin America
    Aldo Marchesi
  10. Leaving the Weapons Without Losing the War: Understanding the Transformation of the FMLN
    Alberto Martín Álvarez
  11. Negotiated Revolution in South Africa, 1990–1994
    Thula Simpson
  12. Transformations in Ethiopia: From Armed Struggle to Politics of Coalitions
    Mehari Taddele Maru
  13. Transformations of Armed Nonstate Actors: Enduring Challenges and Strategic Implications
    Omar Ashour


An exceptionally insightful, valuable, and timely book. By comparing rebel demobilization across time, regions, and ideologies, Omar Ashour's star team of contributors have produced not just a work of reference but something as rare as an academic page-turner.

Professor Thomas Hegghammer, Senior Research Fellow, Norwegian Defence Research Establishment (FFI) and the author of The Caravan: Abdullah Azzam and Rise of Global Jihad

De-radicalisation efforts targeting extremist and terrorist individuals have by and large shown disappointing results.

By looking at armed movements at the meso-(organisational and institutional) and macro-(state- and inter-state) levels, Omar Ashour's original volume unveils a promising new framework for collective deradicalisation and practical conflict resolution - a must read for policy-makers.

Professor Emeritus Alex P. Schmid, former Officer-in-Charge, Terrorism Prevention Branch, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and the author of the Routledge Handbook of Terrorism Research

This edited collection brings together leading academic and practitioner experts on the transformation of armed and violent movements to peaceful actors across ideological milieus. Collective de-radicalisation is unfortunately still something which we know very little about. This in-depth edited volume is a milestone in the field and is highly recommend to anyone interested in the dynamics of violent conflict transformation, demobilisation and armed groups’ processes of change over time.

Dr. Daniel Koehler, Director, German Institute on Radicalization and De-Radicalization Studies (GIRDS) and the author of Understanding Deradicalization: Methods, Tools and Programme for Countering Violent Extremism

In a world dominated by intense conflicts, emphasising the contrary deradicalisation of social movements might look "academic", far-fetched or even wishful thinking. Not so according to the fourteen authors and their analysis of 20 cases from four continents. The authors' first-hand experience, coupled with Ashour's comparative perspective, offers both a data treasure and an important contribution to Social Movement Theory.

Professor Bahgat Korany, FRSC, Department of Political Science, American University in Cairo
Omar Ashour is a Professor of Security and Military Studies and the Founding Chair of the Critical Security Studies Programme at the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies. He is the author of How ISIS Fights: Military Tactics in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Egypt (Edinburgh University Press, 2021) and The De-Radicalization of Jihadists: Transforming Armed Islamist Movements (Routledge, 2009), as well as the editor of Bullets to Ballots: Collective De-Radicalisation of Armed Movements (Edinburgh University Press, 2021).

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