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Summer research project shows how terrorist groups can fill community voids


Summer research project shows how terrorist groups can fill community voids

September 30, 2014Lauren Sagl

A summer research project of a START Global Terrorism Minor student revealed that certain terrorist organizations filled an important void within their communities by providing public health services when their governments do not.

Chanel Harley, a University of Maryland senior examined groups such as Andres Castro United Front in Nicaragua, Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia in Colombia, and the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement in Peru along with two other organizations and found that they provided goods and services that were not being provided by the government.

Under the guidance of mentor Dr. Kanisha Bond, Harley’s six-week research project was funded through the McNair Scholars program and combined her interest in terrorism with her interest in community health. The Upper Marlboro, Md. native was one of only 35 minority students from across the country to be named a McNair Scholar in its 2013 summer institute cohort.

According to Harley’s studies, when governments fail to provide services such as healthcare and facilities such as hospitals and schools, terrorist organizations step in and engage the community in a relationship through the provision of those services, which Harley says forms a social contract.

“In exchange for the goods and services terrorist organizations provide, members of the affected community will help the organization, whether it’s through recruitment or hiding members in their houses,” Harley explained.

As an undergraduate student, Harley has completed two research projects and is now working on a third. In addition to her McNair research project, Harley also worked with Dr. Bond on an earlier project involving female participation in white supremacist organizations and black liberation organizations. Harley hopes that these projects, along with her upcoming project on women in Latin American terrorist organizations, will help to prove her competency when it comes time to apply for graduate school. Once in graduate school, she will have the opportunity to become a McNair Fellow, where her education will be paid for in full.

In addition to being a McNair Scholar, she is also an ICAE (Intelligence Center of Academic Excellence) Scholar, a teaching assistant, a tutor for two classes in the academic achievement program, vice president of administration for Leading Ladies Connecting and a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.

“I guess I come from a long line of women not following traditional career paths,” Harley said with a chuckle. “My mother and grandmother have been real inspirations.”

Harley explained her mother is an electrical engineer, which was not typical profession for women, let alone minority women. Her grandmother received her Ph.D. in botany in the 1950s prior to the Civil Rights Movement.

Chanel plans to graduate from UMD in fall of 2015 with her bachelor’s in community health and a minor in global terrorism studies. She then hopes to go on to graduate school, where she wants to study government and politics and international relations with a special focus on developing policies for Latin American countries.