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F. (Fabienne) Thijs

Faculty of Humanities
History, European Studies and Religious Studies

Visiting address
  • Kloveniersburgwal 48
Postal address
  • Postbus 1610
    1000 BP Amsterdam
Contact details
  • Profile

    Biography and research interests

    Fabienne Thijs is a postdoc at the department of contemporary and military history at the University of Amsterdam (UvA). She has a background in criminology, history, and political science, and obtained her PhD at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU). Her main research interest pertains contemporary conflict and violence, with currently a specific focus on foreign fighters/volunteers.

  • Research

    Current project: Foreign Fighters in Ukraine

    Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine of 24 February 2022, tens of thousands of volunteers from 52 different countries – including at least 200 Dutchmen – have joined Ukraine’s “International Legion”. These ‘foreign fighters’ are, however, not the first to voluntary join a fight in a country they were not native to or citizens of. Precedents include the Zouaves who supported the Pope in his fight against Italian nationalists (1860-1870), the International Brigades fighting a Nazi-backed insurgency in Spain (1936-1939), and the foreign fighters who flocked to Syria and Iraq in support of the Islamic State (2012-2016). Only very recently have the first attempts been made to connect some of these separate historical instances of foreign fighting, and a burgeoning debate has begun over what sets these fighters apart from other violent actors, and what effects they have on both host and home countries. The emergence of the “international Legion” has increased the urgency of questions, especially since their members’ legal status remains deeply contested, they are likely to endure or be active participants in extreme violence, and will receive no official support readjusting to civilian life and/or deal with trauma or moral injury. Moreover, it is very likely this foreign fighter mobilisation will not be the last.

    This project seeks to better understand the foreign fighting phenomenon, which continues to confound policy makers and poses manifold challenges to both ‘peace’, both in foreign fighters’ home and host countries. By adding unique new source material to our study of foreign fighting, this project will not only aid to scientific understanding of current events, but also past and future instances of foreign fighting by together various disciplines including history, law, and psychiatry. Societal stakeholders are ARQ45, the Dutch national centre for specialist diagnostics and treatment of people with complex psychotraumatic complaints, and the T.M.C. Asser Institute which specialises in international law and operates at the interface of academia, legal practice and governance.

    This project is funded by the Dutch National Research Agenda (Nationale Wetenschapsagenda, NWA.1418.22.005).

  • Ancillary activities
    • Nederlandse Vereniging voor Criminologie
      Coördinator van de NVC-divisie "Activisme, Extremisme en Terrorisme"