The term "terrorism" is relatively a new term, which was first introduced in 1798 in the appendix to a text of a French academy. It was intended to describe the state of terror and panic that swept through France between 1793 and 1794 when the police were allowed to enter houses and arrest the suspect. The US Department of Defense (DoD) has defined terrorism as “the unlawful use of violence or threat of violence to instill fear and coerce governments or societies. Terrorism is often motivated by religious, political, or other ideological beliefs and committed in the pursuit of goals that are usually political”.
In recent decades, the phenomenon of global terrorism has received increasing attention from both developing and developed countries because of the growing terrorist operations and terror acts reported in many countries across the globe. These operations or acts of terror have been characterized by bloody and indiscriminate attacks, leaving scores of civilians to die or injured at the scene of terror incidents.
There are different interpretations of motives that led to the growth of terrorism globally and regionally. Some believe that international competitions and conflicts help to promote terrorism, while others believe that terrorism is a natural phenomenon that can appear in any society, as it’s linked to various factors, including political, economic and social. The international community and organizations have evinced keen interest to understand the concept of terrorism, its sources and origins, and the extent to which Arabs and Muslims have been active in terrorist activities since the events of September 11, 2001, in the United States.
Many researchers have contributed to the interpretation and definition of terrorism as well as analysis of its contents, each according to their competence. Some of them considered terrorism as an individual behavior and psychological mentality that governs their methodologies, while some of them analyzed it as a social imbalance in the structure of society. Not only this, some have linked it to a religious faith (Islam) or to a specific stream of nationalism (Arab).
Many researchers attribute the causes of terrorism to the tensions arising from modern life, the absence of justice, the financial constraints faced by individuals, the family crises as well as the complexities of the conflict of conservative values with the contemporary ones. Others believe that political factors including the right to self-determination, the approach of public towards a problem or an issue of concern towards ethnic groups, the use of force against weak states and political oppression lead to terrorism or acts of terror. The causes of terrorism are also attributed to several factors like external economic causes resulting from imbalances in the global economic system as well as internal economic causes such as the absence of justice in the distribution of national wealth, poverty, deprivation and unemployment. The social causes could include multiple actions. Such as, violation of human rights by torture and imprisonment, ignoring the sufferings of people, ideological oppression, and cultural marginalization, the absence of a culture of tolerance and the promotion of intolerance, hatred, extremist ideology and rhetorical behavior also gives birth to terrorism.
Other researchers consider terrorism as a form of immoral and unjustified political violence, but this vision must be subjected to an objective factual review. This review is essential because terrorism actually involves a confrontation between two opposite parties and each side in this confrontation justifies its position and legitimizes its actions. Whatever the case may be, there are still many differences and disagreements on a precise and clear definition of the concept of terrorism. It is the most exciting and most talked about in the fields of media, politics, culture and international relations as well as civilization.
It is clear to the most analysts that the war on terrorism has led to the globalization of terrorism and the war on terrorism in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan has led to the punishment of the people of those countries because it has killed and displaced millions of people. It has also destroyed the civilized legacy of those nations which dates back to thousands of years.
The United Nations documents have confirmed that an agreement to prevent terrorism and punish it has been prepared since 1937. They also claim that the United Nations has succeeded in achieving an International Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Seizure of Aircraft in 1971, the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Crimes against Internationally Protected Persons, including Diplomatic Agents in 1973, and The Convention Of Anti-Hijacking in 1979. And in 1988, the United Nations considered terrorism to be "all criminal acts intended or calculated to provoke a state of terror in the general public, a group of persons or particular persons". All of these UN’s achievements have finally culminated in ‘The UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy’ to enhance national, regional and international efforts to counter terrorism, on 8 September 2006. The UN General Assembly adopted the strategy, which is composed of four pillars, which are as follow--
- Addressing the conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism
- Measures to prevent and combat terrorism
- Nations to take capacity building measures to prevent and combat terrorism and to strengthen the role of the United Nations system in that regard;
- Measures to ensure respect for human rights for all and the rule of law as the fundamental basis for the fight against terrorism.
The strategy reaffirmed that the world leaders have re-dedicated themselves to support all efforts. This was to uphold the principle of sovereign equality of all states, respect their territorial integrity and political independence, and refrain from the threat or use of force in any manner inconsistent with the purposes and principles of the UN. The strategy further reaffirmed to uphold resolution of disputes by peaceful means and in conformity with the principles of justice and international law, the right to self-determination of people which remain under colonial domination or foreign occupation, non-interference in the internal affairs of states, as well as respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. This also includes respect for equal rights of all without distinction on the basis of race, sex, language or religion.
Thus, the member states must address the causes and conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism, including but not limited to prolonged unresolved conflicts, lack of rule of law, violations of human rights, ethnic, national and religious discrimination, political exclusion, socio-economic marginalization, and lack of good governance. To counter all of the above conditions, the member states should promote a culture of peace, justice and human development, ethnic, national and religious tolerance, and respect for all religions, religious values, beliefs or cultures by establishing and encouraging, as appropriate, education and public awareness programs involving all sections of society.
The member states should also encourage inter-faith dialogue, dialogue among civilizations; prohibit by law a terrorist act. To prevent such conduct, they must make efforts to eradicate poverty, promote sustained economic growth, sustainable development, and global prosperity for all, especially on youth unemployment. This could reduce marginalization and victimization that propel extremism eventually leading to the recruitment of terrorists.
Serious measures should be devised by member states to prevent and combat terrorism, in particular by denying terrorist access to the means to carry out their attacks on their targets and to the desired impact of their attacks. The member states should also ensure that their territories are not used for terrorist hideouts or training camps. They must work to prosecute any person, who supports, facilitates, participates or attempts to participate in the financing, planning, or preparation of terrorist acts.
Member states should also strengthen coordination and cooperation among themselves in combating crimes that might be related to terrorism, including drug trafficking in all its aspects, and illicit arms trade. They should intensify efforts to boost cooperation in terms of exchanging timely and accurate information concerning the prevention and combating of terrorism and step up all efforts to improve the security and protection of, particularly vulnerable targets.
Member states should also step-up national efforts as well as boost efforts on the bilateral, sub-regional, regional and international level to improve border and customs controls in order to prevent and detect the movement of terrorists. This will be done while coordinating efforts at the international and regional levels to counter terrorism in all its forms and manifestations on the Internet and to encourage relevant regional and sub-regional organizations to create or strengthen counter-terrorism mechanisms. They must also support the creation of an international center to fight terrorism, which could be considered as part of the international efforts to enhance the fight against terrorism.
Writer, and military expert