Unrequited Heroes: Suicide Bombers In Iraq

Posted on June 28, 2012 in GlobeScope

By Sanchita Khurana:

June 2012 has been marked by a series of high-profile attacks throughout Iraq. On June 4th, a suicide bomber set off a car bomb outside the Shiite Endowment in Baghdad. On June 11, Al Qaeda in Iraq’s front organization, the Islamic State of Iraq claimed responsibility for the incident, and warned that more were coming. That same day there were nearly forty attacks throughout the width and length of the entire country. June 13, when an attack at a Shiite pilgrimage killed many, has been recorded as one of the bloodiest days in the history of Iraq. A striking commonality among all these attacks is the use of human bombs.

Even though it is true violence in Iraq has gone down after US troops left post-2003, suicide bombings have been an ever-increasing trend in the country. One is bound to analyse these in context of the rigid Islamic ideology which considers the human bomb a martyr and the idea of gaining justice that has otherwise been denied to (bombers coming from) minority groups, in a politically divided country. This method of terrorism is more “useful” for the terrorist groups because this method presupposes death. Nothing will stop the “volunteer” once he is indoctrinated and the psychological impact that a human bomb leaves is much more than telling. But of course it is important to look at these attacks from newer perspectives while trying to root out their cause.

What makes suicide bombing so prevalent is the heroic idea attached to dying for one’s religious group in Islam. These volunteers are heroes in their own eyes, no matter how unrequited. It is also conjectured, that such rebellious self-abnegation is sometimes a means to refuse all authority by those who feel that their rights have been trampled and/or ignored. While there are many categories of suicide in the typical Durkheimian analysis, like the altruistic and the heroic, there is none that will explain the complexity of the motive behind a suicide bombing. Strapping an explosive around one’s body, certain that such a death will be “a way to heaven”, is not so simple a task that it can be categorized as one motive. Like Dostoyevsky writes, “Nothing is easier than to denounce the evildoer; nothing is more difficult than to understand him.”Some social analysts point towards oppressive regimes that lead to the “abnormal psychology” of the suicide bomber, some others however point out that the act of bombing oneself is not one of madness; in fact it is done in full consciousness of the deed. Ideologically, socially and pragmatically, abundant factors have been shown which contribute to young men (and women) becoming suicide bombers– some of them being religious dogma, globalising oppression, hopelessness in face of an already violence-driven life, etc.

Keeping in mind these factors, the Iraq bombings draw special attention because of their peculiarity. Unlike suicide bombing in other countries, those in Iraq have been seen always to target not multinational forces or the U.S. troops but the Iraqi security forces, particularly the police and the Shiite community in general.

The al-Qaeda which took responsibility for many of these bombings has consistently gone after every Shiite event in the country, hoping to create tension, and a possible retaliatory attack, which they hope would bring the country back to the brink of civil war. That has not happened yet. More importantly, June 13th showed that militants carry out attacks against all of Iraq’s major groups. Not only were Shiite Arabs struck, but so were Sunni Arabs, and Kurds. It also points to the fact that there are other groups operating in the country.

Another puzzling factor is that most suicide bombers in Iraq are foreigners. Although the insurgency is undoubtedly centrally composed of and led by Iraqis, research shows that a majority of suicide bombers come from countries such as Saudi Arabia, Algeria, and Tunisia. Eight of them came from Italy. For author Mohammed Hafez, this phenomenon, which he has termed, “martyrs without borders,” is one of the most troubling and perplexing aspects of the suicide attacks in Iraq.

No matter who does it, the victims are always the innocent men, women and children. Suicide bombings not only create physical destruction; they also leave the citizens estranged in their own surroundings. June’s events point to the fact that Iraq is still a very dangerous place to live. Gunshots, mortar attacks, and bombings are common occurrences. Unfortunately, this has become the norm for Iraq and no strategic move by the government seems to be of help.