Paris- Ankara- Beirut- Mali; they all have similar stories, that of coercion, of unending pain and an organisation’s faith in brutality.
Terrorism as such has not devised for itself an elaborative definition in particular. Over the years many different perspectives have come up surrounding the intimidation in the pursuit of political aims.To anyone who was paying attention the background may seem pretty clear.
In 1979, with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, things began to boil. The United States couldn’t directly attack USSR and hence the world saw the birth of the “three parent baby” Mujahideen ;Afghanistan’s resistance forces. The CIA, ISI and the Royal Saudi Intelligence together conceived the anti soviet jihad theory and presented to the world what could be the greatest threat to humanity. Financial aid from Saudi, arms from the U.S and manpower from Pakistan helped the Mujahideen drive Soviet forces out of Afghanistan. But what U.S thought would be a geo political edge began to trouble them soon. Pakistan who always played the middle man was America’s utility from 1947. What Pakistan thought to be a trouble for India has begun to haunt Pakistan itself today that became explicit since the Bhutto assassination.
The global perspective towards terrorism largely changed post Al Qaeda sponsored 9/11. Iraq, Libya, and Afghanistan were removed as launching points for large-scale terrorist attacks to a great extent. New factions developed with varying ideologies, overcoming their former partners and eventual rivals in reach and recruitment. One such is the Islamic State.
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, a salafi jihadist extremist militant group led by Sunni arabs from Iraq and Syria and are performing mass murders and violence of the highest order. ISIS’s rise came in June 2014, when it captured Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, erasing the century-old border between Iraq and Syria established after World War I.
Various events in history can be claimed responsible for the rise of islamist extremist groups. Let’s briefly go through them.
▪ On May 19, 1916, representatives of Great Britain and France secretly reached an accord, known as the Sykes-Picot agreement, by which most of the Arab lands under the rule of the Ottoman Empire were to be divided into British and French spheres of influence with the conclusion of World war 1. This agreement is a shorthand for the ideologies and powers ISIS opposes.
▪ Sieging of the Grand Mosque at Mecca in Saudi Arabia, 1979
The attack was led by Juhayman al-Oteibi, a fundamentalist preacher and former member of the Saudi National Guard, and Mohammed Abdullah al-Qahtani, who claimed to be the mahdi. The two men openly called for a revolt against the Saudi monarchy, accusing it of having betrayed Islamic principles and sold out to western countries. The siege ended two weeks after the takeover began and the mosque was cleared with help from the French forces. This became an inspiration to al-Qaeda less than a decade and a half later and a major reason for its evolution.
▪ Iranian Revolution
Unpopular and western influenced policies of Ruler Mohammad Reza Shah led to public resentment against the shah in Iran. The growing sense of dissatisfaction among Iranians as a result of the modernisation detrimental to the people and traditions gave the perfect ground for the rise of Ruhollah Khomeini who successfully led the revolution with the objective of overthrowing the Shah. It further led to awakening of Shi’a Muslims worldwide thus injecting militancy into its political theology and the expansion of various proxy groups.
Iran, a Shiite theocracy, and the ISIS, a Sunni theocracy are fierce ideological opponents and the presence of ISIS in Iraq gives Iran a ready excuse for its interventionism. Meanwhile, it is that Iranian influence in Iraq that makes ISIS so capable of winning Sunni fighters to their side. Support for one side over the other only continues the cycle, playing into the extremists’ hands.
Immediate steps to be taken.
In-order to curb terrorism the world community should not only reiterate its condemnation of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, committed by whomever, wherever and for whatever purposes but also take strong actions against such entities.
Curbing funds and posing economic sanctions is the foremost step to be taken against states sponsoring terrorist activities. A need for unrest has become a geopolitical move, oil being one of the biggest reason with western countries continuously involving themselves in the Middle Easth to guarantee their petroleum supplies. The UN also seems to display contrasting reactions when it comes to combating terrorism. This was evident when it stayed mute when the West attacked Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan.
The developed countries also have a great role to play especially when it comes to stopping the educated youth from falling into the lures of extremist ideologies. Designing policies that are non inclusive and which fail to integrate minorities is a major reason why our educated youth are easily available for terrorist organisations. For instance, after 2008, economic crisis and unemployment in France rose to 10% while among the muslim youth the figures were twice as that. It is thus for the state to take special care in designing policies that are inclusive as well take taking into consideration the welfare of the most vulnerable sections.
Causing terror has become the new ism but it is for the strong and the weak alike to make sure that it is not here to stay. The strong must refrain from using it to establish their geopolitical strength and the weak should be able to identify such viscous circles.