Let's talk about terrorism (and Barcelona)

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Louise Hay
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Let's talk about terrorism (and Barcelona)

Last update: October 12, 2017

It is difficult to put yourself in the shoes of someone who has been the victim, directly or indirectly, of the recent terrorist attacks in Barcelona. But it is even more difficult to put yourself in the shoes of the people who experience terrorism every day: they are far from us and we know so little about them.

What is certain is that thousands of people in Iraq and Syria experience this situation every day without even being able to imagine a tomorrow in which to place their hopes.



It seems absurd to give an entire religion responsibility for the actions of a very small minority. Yet the comments of many people who are rampant online show us how this absurdity is, in fact, a reality.

Hateful comments multiply with each new terrorist attack. But to understand what happened in Barcelona it is necessary to understand what terrorism is and what it feeds on. In these cases, messages of encouragement are necessary and positive, but so is being well informed and not feeding hatred in those who are not involved in the events.

Terrorism is such a great threat that it requires allies, not enemies ...

What is terrorism?

The first problem we encounter lies in the definition of terrorism itself. Currently, every country and every organization has its own definition of terrorism. Although these definitions have many points in common, they are also very distant from each other in other fundamental respects. We could say that the definition of terrorism is political, as it responds to the interests of those who create it.

One of the objectives of the policy should be precisely to unify the definition of terrorism. An international conceptualization that can be used by the police, by those who apply the law and by those who actually deal with enforcing it.



Based on these models, we refer to the definition of Boaz Ganor, former head of the Israeli Mossad, who proposes this definition: “Terrorism is a method of violent struggle in which violence is deliberately used against civilians to achieve political objectives (nationalist, socio-economic, ideological, religious, etc.)”. According to this definition, terrorism is any attack on civilians that has objectives linked to politics. Attacks in which the victims are members of the police are considered guerrilla, not terrorism.

The interests of terrorism

Regarding the interests of terrorism, we need to make a distinction between two types of motives. On the one hand, we have the individual motives of each person or terrorist; on the other, the interests of the terrorist organization. For the latter, the main goal is to spread fear.

An attack like that of Barcelona, ​​London or Paris, which may seem totally random and impossible to avoid, wants to send a clear message: no one is safe. It is natural that in front of this people, directly involved or not, feel frightened. This fear, however, can become chronic and be irrational.

Lhe goal of the terrorist organization, therefore, is to instill chronic terror in people that leads them not to feel safe. One of the immediate consequences is that the population approves the security measures put in place by the government, while accepting that these lead to a reduction in rights and freedoms.

Another probable consequence of an attack will be to induce us to dwell on some characteristics of terrorists, for example religion, and the contempt for those who have claimed so many victims extends to anyone who professes this religion.


As a result, people will pressure their governments to take stricter measures that restrict the freedom of the group in question in favor of necessary security. This fear, therefore, ends up being focused on specific people, specifically on anyone who professes the Islamic religion or has Arab origins.


And so the terrorist organization finds a way to legitimize its actions as an expression of a noble defense of the discriminated against, the oppressed and the marginalized. The difference between "us" and "them" inevitably increases. Hate speech leads to a polarized society, while at the same time making it easier for those who recruit terrorists to work.

The interests of the terrorists

The personal interests of terrorists, on the other hand, can be manifold. Each person will have different priorities. Recalling that jihadist terrorism originates from a perverse deformation of Islam, interests maintain a link with the beliefs of that religion. Not for this reason the terrorists are Muslims, but despite this their motivations are linked to the advantages they want to bring to religion.

Here, then, are some of the personal "advantages" for terrorists will be: guaranteeing access to heaven, including 72 huri (virgin women) waiting for them, obtaining the right to choose 70 people who can go directly to heaven when they die (independently from what they did in life), prestige for their families, idealization of the dead terrorist who becomes a martyr.

However, as we have already seen, not all interests are religious. Terrorist families usually receive amounts of money that they could never get otherwise. The terrorists who participated in the attack and were not captured also receive recognition and a greater level of responsibility within the organization to which they belong. Finally, another common interest is the desire for revenge against those they hold responsible for their situation of marginalization.


A mixture of these interests, along with others, define the individual motivations of the terrorists which, as we have seen, do not necessarily coincide with those of the organization.

Advice in case of an attack

Although it is important to be aware of the above, for the layman on the subject it is even more important to know what role models to follow. We should certainly know how to react in the event of a terrorist attack, even if it does not directly affect our geographic area.


First of all, it is essential to listen to the experts, to the police. Their directions are the first to follow.

Providing support through social networks can benefit everyone. As we said, fueling hate speech, criminalizing entire communities and supporting racist and intolerant policies is tantamount to playing the terrorists' game. In this way, we will act in the interests of the terrorists.

It is also wrong to spread strong and morbid images. In addition to creating irrational fear, these images can hurt the sensitivity of those directly involved. On the other hand, it can be helpful to share information on the behavior to be held, images that show union and understanding towards those affected both directly and indirectly. We must also condemn the wrong practices listed above, denouncing them or ignoring them.

Should we find ourselves at the scene of an attack, the experts give the following recommendations: run, hide and communicate. Initially, it is necessary to escape and look for a safe place, being a hero can be counterproductive. Once you have reached a safe place, it is necessary to inform the police of what happened and warn acquaintances that they are not in danger. Before warning, you need to be sure there is no danger. Remember: run, hide, sound the alarm.

Today we are all Barcelona. Tomorrow we will be Syrians and the day after tomorrow we will be Afghans. Nationality, color, ethnicity or religion do not matter. Against terrorism, we must be united. Only and exclusively in this way will we gain allies and lose enemies.

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