London – The wider picture, the historical perspective, the analytical thinking and the investigative mind, a stunning amount of facts, figures, statistics coherently mixed with individual stories and facts as they happened: right the tools we all need to understand why suicide bomb attacks happen and why in the Middle East as in Europe as in Sri Lanka and around the world in areas so different and distant. Journalist and author Iain Overton gives us multiple reasons for this, revealing patterns and common dynamics of terror attacks in diverse political contexts; a series of reasons to understand why a suicide bomber pays The price of Paradise with his life.
I pick a striking one, among the many, challenging our set of mind:
“As one bomber put it, his fellow European Muslims ‘are too busy watching Home and Away and East Enders, complaining about the World Cup, drinking alcohol to care about anything’. Their sense of alienation was compounded by the fact that the majority of Europe bombers did not integrate into the wider indigenous community. It’s hard to know their private lives fully, but few appear to have had white friends”.
Alienation is on both sides, here. Do WE have to change?
For those who want, going through each page of this book and follow Overton’s steps from 1881 revolutionary Russia, (where he places the first suicide bombing), to Manchester‘s attacks, is the right path at least for one reason: we will never ever understand what and who is able to turn one human being into an offensive weapon by watching breaking news, debates, documentaries. Causes are too many and intricate.
The author well explains here how suicide bombing developed throughout history as technical strategy, utopian ideology, media propaganda, effective mean to initially target political figures and, later, civilians, a way to destroy physical links to terror groups behind attacks. All aspects of our lives are involved: foreign politics (direct and indirect intervention in Middle East conflicts), inability of media to communicate complexity to the wider public, religious fanaticism, economic exploitation of developing countries, disintegrated societies, regimes, non-state actors, rights and nationhood…
And, again, about minorities, marginalisation and regimes: we are in Sri Lanka now where the author interviewed members of the Tamil Tigers making sense of their stories through the recent past:
”...in 1948 the Sinhalese majority represented 70% of the country’s population with the Tamils a seizable minority. Under British rule, colonial policy chose to rule by the logic of divide and conquer and in so doing favoured this Tamil minority, giving it a disproportionate share of power…But independence from the British just after the Second World War changed everything, it was another group’s ‘turn to eat’. The political backlash was swift and hard: shortly after they secured power the new Sri Lankan government adopted Sinhala to be its official language, rather than English and in so doing effectively disqualified large numbers of Tamil from public services who were unable to speak in that tongue. From 1949 to 1963, Tamil participation in public sector jobs plummeted from 41 per cent to just 7 percent”.
Helplessness and horror prevail when we see terror attacks like the Easter suicide bombings in Colombo; it is in these moments that we need to switch from screens to pages to understand what is actually happening.
The final pages of this book lead to the constructive way of action to tackle the root causes of armed violence. We can’t forecast the time and place of next suicide bombing, but we can face the root causes, whether international interests, national regimes or both combined.