The United States (U.S.), United Kingdom (UK), and most of the Middle East and Europe have experienced many terrible crimes and deadly violence. Much of this is rooted in political unrest and civic instability. Other violent episodes stem from a booming economy that now resembles a bankrupt shopping mall. But the most deadly form of violence always comes from terrorists and the members who sacrifice their lives to inflict pain, cruelty, death, and injury on other nations.
What makes a person become a suicide bomber?
This sample essay discusses how these suicide bombers threaten the core of freedom and peace and go against all known rules of war and military strategies. This makes it difficult to hunt down the criminals and force them to pay for their crimes against nature, not to mention preventing more terrorism from spreading.
But what causes a seemingly normal young man or woman to turn from their peaceful beliefs, take up the sword, and kill their own allies, friends, and families? Sociologists, historians, psychologists and psychiatrists, military strategists, and political scientists all have studied the motivation behind suicide bombers. While there is no one complete answer, most of the experts agree it is caused by fear, false promises, and misguided religious superiors.
Is there a psychology behind becoming a suicide bomber?
But to first understand what causes a suicide bomber to be born, one must understand the difference between a suicide bomber who is spreading terrorism versus a legitimate soldier who dies fighting for a just cause. The lines aren’t very clear on who is considered to be a terrorist and who is a revolutionist. Most of the definitions stem from choosing the difference between the morals and end goals. But others say this too is not a clear definition.
Encyclopedia Britannica defines it as:
an act in which an individual personally delivers explosives and detonates them to inflict the greatest possible damage, killing himself or herself in the process. Suicide bombings are particularly shocking on account of their indiscriminate nature, clearly intending to kill or injure anyone within range of the explosion, the victims being mostly unsuspecting civilians (though political figures and military personnel are frequently the main targets), and because of the evident willingness of the bombers to die by their own hands. Virtually all suicide bombings are linked to political causes or grievances. Unlike suicidal tactics born of desperation in war, such as Japan’s kamikaze attacks during World War II, suicide bombing is deliberately employed by terrorists for calculated political effect. Indeed, because suicide bombers have the ability to move, avoid security measures, and choose their targets, they have been likened to a human “smart bomb” (or “poor man’s smart bomb”). (Kiras, “Suicide bombing”)
This definition shows the difference has to do with the current events, morality, reasoning, consequences, alternative methods, and, as shown recently, what side the person is on at the time. For example, fighters in Syria are considered to be revolutionists because they are accepted by most Western powers and because they have no other course of action. However, the Taliban is considered to be a terrorist group because it is believed they have other methods at their disposal and their reasons are wrong. In other words, the difference between a suicide bomber and a legitimate soldier is determined according to who is looking at it.
Fear: The first ingredient of a suicide bomber
To create a suicide bomber or convince a person to give their life for the cause, terrorist leaders must recruit members. But, with all the death, high turnover rate, and likelihood they will not return home, good terrorists are in short supply. The first thing these leaders focus on is fear. Whether the fear is based on fear of harming their families, fear of losing their country, or fear of America’s hostile takeover, these leaders convince people there is a danger and jihad, the Islamic Holy War fought by Muslims, is needed.
And while fear is needed to stir emotion, each fear is different and spawns different responses. Terrorists who join under threat of harm to their families will not be as loyal and may not follow through with suicide bombings. Terrorists who join because they fear Islam and their home country is under attack will fight to the bitter end because they believe in their cause.
Three years ago, when the U.S. led North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) missions to stop insurgents in Afghanistan, it was a common ploy for terrorist leaders to recruit young teenage boys, sometimes even as young as ten-years-old, to serve as suicide bombers. These children live in poverty, illiterate, and trusting of their home-country adults. UK’s The Telegraph reported:
The largely illiterate boys are fed a diet of anti-Western and anti-Afghan government propaganda until they are prepared to kill, he said. But the boys are also assured that they will miraculously survive the devastation they cause.
“The worst part is that these children don’t think that they are killing themselves,” said an Afghan official. “They are often given an amulet containing Koranic verses. Mullahs tell them, ‘When this explodes you will survive and God will help you survive the fire. Only the infidels will be killed, you will be saved and your parents will go to paradise’.”
This fear causes the children to believe they are fighting for their future and freedom of their families. Most of the children are too young to understand the truth and are swayed by the fear.
Misguided freedom fighters: The second ingredient of a suicide bomber
These children also represent the terrorists who are tricked and mislead to believing they are in danger and must protect themselves. These terrorists honestly believe they are helping their country, but, instead, they are hurting those they love the most – their families. The militants create fear in adult militants and young children by
“repeatedly showing them rape videos, and telling them how their mothers and sisters will be treated by the ‘white men.’”
Most of these men and boys want to protect their sisters, daughters, and mothers. But they never stop to ask if the images are true. After all, if they can see it happening, it must be true. Terrorist leaders have spent millions of dollars to create this videos and other false images. It is considered a highly skilled marketing scheme, and U.S. forces have been hard-pressed to fight the tactic.
Other terrorists are misled by the fact they will survive or go to heaven for their service to Islam. One young boy, Murad Tawalbi, told CBS News’ 60 Minutes that his brother recruited him to fight against the Americans. And the brother made religious promises, just as he had been promised when he joined.
“He wasn’t trying to make me wear an explosive belt. He was giving me a ticket to heaven. Because he loves me, he wants me to become a martyr. Because martyrdom is the most exalted thing in our religion. Not just anyone gets the chance to become a martyr.”
This young man is just one example of the scores of young teenagers and boys who are tricked into becoming a terrorist by false promises and deception. But promises of a spot in heaven isn’t the only incentive terrorists use to trick unknowing suicide bombers. Some actually believe they won’t die.
Some leaders of local terrorist’s factions place prayers in a necklace or other container and tie it to the bombers. Others hold religious ceremonies to aid in protection. But the reasoning is clear; terrorists believe they will be spared death because of their willingness to die for their cause. They believe Allah, the principal Islamic deity from the Jewish Torah that most Muslims follow, will protect them and allow them to return unharmed. One child who was to become a suicide bomber said:
Each day they were preaching that we would tie bombs on to our bodies and attack foreigners in Afghanistan. They told us the bombs would not kill us, only the Americans would die.
However, this is disillusionment, and the suicide bombers never return, unless they are caught.
While many researchers believe there are several reasons why people become suicide bombers, there are three primary conclusions each agree on and think is a root cause. Suicide bombers are scared. Terrorist leaders convince them the Americans and Christians are bad people who come to loot, kill, steal, rape, and destroy their country.
They even back their claims up with actual video footage that’s been doctored to show white, American men raping dark-skinned, Middle Eastern women. This convinces these men to fight for the cause, and to take up the Jihad.
Others are scared the terrorists will kill their family and friends if they don’t fight. Suicide bombers also are tricked by terrorist leaders. They convince the would-be suicide bombers that there are glorious rewards awaiting the, in heaven with Allah. They only have to become a martyr to be free from the earthly fight and join their brothers and sisters in the afterlife.
Other suicide bombers are convinced they simply will not die. Terrorist leaders perform rituals and place prayers (e.g. spells and potions) on the suicide bombers or the bomb itself. This is supposed to convince them they will not die.
While these factors are the primary force that drives the person to become a suicide bomber, there are other aspects to consider. Social class, poverty, education, religious beliefs, and current events also play a big part in whether or not a person will bend to the promises and fear used to recruit them.
Not all people will give in to these elements and will stay strong. But others, whether sociological or psychological, will succumb to the recruiter’s demands. In the end, recruiters only use advanced marketing strategies and fear to win the day. Education to discourage the misinformation is the solution to dissuade people from become suicide bombers.
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Farmer, Ben. “Afghan boy suicide bombers tell how they are brainwashed into believing they will survive.” The Telegraph. 13 Jan. 2012. Web. 20 June 2015.
Harman, Jane. “Why do women turn into suicide bombers?” CNN News. 5 Aug. 2014. Web. 20 June 2015.
Hassan, Riaz. “What Motivates the Suicide Bomber?” YaleGlobal Online. Yale University,
MacMillian Center. 3 Sept. 2009. Web. 20 June 2015.
Kiras, James. “Suicide bombing.” Encyclopedia Britannica. 7 Aug. 2014. Web. 20 June 2015.
Leung, Rebecca. “Mind of the Suicide Bomber: Bob Simon Speaks to Two Would-Be Martyrs.” CBS News: 60 Minutes. 23 May 2003. Web. 20 June 2015.
Noble, Alan. “What Motivates Suicide Bombers? It Might not be what You Think.” Pathos. 15 Oct. 2012. Web. 20 June 2015.
Sarraj, Eyad. “Why we have become suicide bombers.” Mission Islam. N.d. Web. 25 June 2015.