Questions Why did you draw your picture? Where do our impressions of a terrorist come from? Do you think our ideas are representative of the majority of terrorists? In the UK, there have been many thousands of terrorist incidents; only a handful have involved extremist Muslims. In 1993, 22 bombs were planted by the IRA in London alone; hundreds of other incidents took place elsewhere in the UK.
(A) Timothy McVeigh A former American soldier In 1995, he blew up a building in Oklahoma, killing 165 and wounding over 400. Nineteen of the dead were young children at a nursery. He wanted revenge for the Government handling of the Waco siege two years before, where 76 members of a religious sect – including 20 children – died after a gun battle with the authorities. He also wanted to bring down the American Government. He was arrested and found guilty soon after, and killed by lethal injection in 2001.
(B) Donald Currie A member of the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) The ALF officially do not support attacks on people. In 2005, he placed several homemade bombs under cars and on the doorsteps of people who were connected to an animal experimentation laboratory (Huntingdon Life Science). No one was killed. He was found guilty and sentenced to a minimum of six years in prison.
(C) Salem al-Hazmi Terrorist He was born in Saudi Arabia and become a member of the Al-Qaeda network. On 11 September 2001, he was one of the five hijackers on American Airline Flight 77, which crashed into the Pentagon building in America.
(D) Mairéad Farrell Member of the IRA In 1976, she was found guilty of attempting to plant a bomb in Northern Ireland. She spent ten years in prison. In 1988, she was controversially shot dead by the SAS on the Island of Gibraltar when suspected of a potential bombing. Explosives were later found in a car that she had the keys to – but they were not set to go off.
What is terrorism? Come up with a definition of terrorism. Use one of the sentence starters below. Tip: Your definition cannot include the word “terrorism” or “terrorist” (apart from at the beginning), but might include the word “terror” or “terrorise”. Terrorism occurs when… A terrorist act is one that … A terrorist is someone who…
Applying your definition Using your definition, look at some of the following cases. Would you say that the organisation in question was a terrorist organisation?
Scenario 1 During the 1970s and early 1980s, Argentina was ruled by a military dictatorship. The government carried out a “dirty war” against many of its people. If people disagreed with the government or tried to protest, they would be taken away from their houses – often in the middle of the night – and were never seen again. Around 20,000 people ‘disappeared’ this way. This made people frightened to disagree with the government.
Scenario 2 Fathers for Justice believes that when couples with children split up, fathers often do not have enough rights to see their children. Since 2000, the group has carried out a range of stunts to highlight its cause. These have included: throwing a purple flour bomb at the Prime Minister in the House of Commons; climbing on Buckingham Palace dressed as Batman; and forcing their way onto the live National Lottery show.
Scenario 3 The Animal Liberation Front (ALF) operates in a number of countries but has no official leadership. One of its aims is to free animals from places where they are “abused”, such as laboratories and factory farms, and provide places where the animals can live safely. The activities of people associated with the ALF have included: destroying meat trucks and slaughter houses; intimidating workers at animal laboratories by writing threatening letters; breaking windows; setting off fireworks outside workers’ homes in the night; breaking into laboratories and freeing animals; publicising the names and addresses of people connected with laboratories.
Scenario 4 In the 1980s, the members of ETA (Euskadi Ta Askatasuna) carried out a series of bomb attacks in Spain. They wanted the area of Spain they lived in (call the Basque Country) to be a separate country with its own laws. They felt that the Spanish government was ignoring their rights and feelings.
Discussion points Scenario 1: Some people are reluctant to say that governments can commit acts of terrorism. In part this is because it might open up lots of governments to be accused of terrorist actions. Other people would say that yes, a state or government can commit terrorist acts. Scenario 2: Most people would not describe Fathers for Justice as a terrorist organisation. Although the actions of its members may break the law, they do not use violence or intimidation. Scenario 3: Although the ALF themselves do not claim to use violence, some individuals associated with the organisation have done so. The UK Government considers ALF to be an extremist organisation but not a terrorist one. Scenario 4: ETA would appear to be using terrorist activities to further its cause.
Definition of terrorism The United Kingdom's Terrorism Act 2000 defines terrorism as follows: An act of terrorism is “….an act or threat of act that is designed to influence the government or to intimidate the public or a section of the public which is made to advance a political, religious or ideological cause”. Such acts may a) involve serious violence against a person; b) involve serious damage to property; c) endanger another person's life; d) create a serious risk to the health or safety of the public; and e) seriously interfere with or disrupt an electronic system. The key features of the definition are: use or threat of violence members of the public (civilians) political, religious, ideological gain.
Who decides? In 2011, many countries in North Africa and the Middle East saw large protests. The people in these countries were trying to change their governments so that they could have a system in which they voted for the government of their choice (democracy). In Syria, many thousands of people protested and government forces fired into the crowds, killing many people. The Syrian government claimed the protests were caused by terrorists trying to stir up the people. Most of the protesters would see themselves as non-violent citizens seeking freedom. The government in Syria has been accused of censorship, torture and making people “disappear”. It has opened fire on its own people. Many would say the government is guilty of terrorism against its own people. Who are the terrorists: the government, the protesters, both or none? It is not always easy to decide who is a terrorist and who isn't. Sometimes, people accused of terrorism do not see themselves this way; they might see their accusers as terrorists.