Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Sunday, July 12th, 2020

Psychology of Terrorism


  Psychology of Terrorism

In recent decades, political events have been happening in the ways that Afghan people have seen and experienced its direct impact in their daily lives. This experience and awareness which directly impact the lives of Afghan people are different from the experience of people in other countries. In a number of countries, considering their work division and managerial systems, everyone is busy with their own work, except in very few cases, people do not show a special interest in politics. One of these examples is a number of European and North American countries that many of their citizens do not even know the names of their government cabinet members, or they know little about the political geography of the world.
This does not mean that people of Afghanistan is more specialized in politics, rather it means the direct effects of politics on lives of people are more obvious, and because of this, there are more curiosity and interests appearing in shapes of rumors and supports, hopes and frustrations which all emanates from dozens of problems exist in the field of politics in the country. Despite great changes that have taken place in the country and the region over the last few decades, it seems that politics in our country is more reactive based on the daily experience and reaction to the strategies of others, rather than systematic and scientific moves.
To this end, the present article is to investigate suicide act through political psychology which is one of the interdisciplinary sciences emerged from the link between modern psychology and political science. There are many interpretations about terrorism but political psychology tries to explain political phenomena with psychological questions and theories. For example, in election psychology, they try to make it clear how people vote and vote for a party or individual and whether it can predict electoral behavior. Questions of this kind are subject to political psychology.
The psychology of terrorism is a branch of political psychology that wants to understand terrorism with psychology, and seeks to provide scientific response to questions such as: what is the terrorism discourse? Why do terrorists think so and why do they carry out dreadful actions?  Is there any specific factor or background that imposes them susceptible to such dreadful action? Can the phenomenon of terrorism be explained only by religion? How is it possible to prevent radical groups such as ISIL? These are several questions that political psychology tries to answer.
In the psychology of terrorism, there are two main types of pivotal theories: first, temperamental theory and second, positional theory. According to temperamental theory, some people have specific characteristics - which are usually irreplaceable that push them towards terrorist acts. One of the most famous positional theories is the temperamental theory of frustration- aggression; in a very simple language, the theory of frustration -aggression states that deprivation of basic and biological needs will put people at risk of aggression, including political violence such as terrorism. This view sees deprivation as a mental issue; for example, a person may not be deprived apparently, but thinks he is in deprived situation. According to this view, some people find themselves in the face of unfair conditions that have prevented them from acquiring natural gifts and deprived them of many rights. So, ISIS terrorists may not be deprived from view of an external observer, but nurtured with a deep deprivation and hatred which propel them to act of terror.
Other example of temperamental theory is narcissism-aggression, most people define narcissism as self affected but psychologists define narcissism as inability to understand the feelings of others, especially the suffering of other human beings. With both concepts, one can expect that the concept of “other” and “violence with others” and “suffering of others” cannot be understood, and so others must be removed so as to leave the way for reaching their ideal goals.
On the contrary to the temperamental theory, the positional theory believe that human behavior in the political arena, including terrorism is due to conditions and situations, these behaviors are learned and consolidated in the environment. For example, the first contemporary suicide bombers were not a religious man, or Muslim. The first suicide bombing terrorist attacks with explosive tactics were the Sri Lankan Tamil tigers fighting against French invaders.  For the Tamil Tigers, there were no concerns of reaching paradise or escaping from the hell but their main issue was their land and specific imposed conditions.
According to positional theory, there are several factors which contribute in the acceleration and realization of terrorism, including suicide terrorism. They also put other factors in the same category: Extremist ideologies (religious or non-religious, hegemony (domination) and inequality of power, the presence of powerful foreign actors who support illegitimate or marginalized governments, ethnic and religious discrimination and social injustice.
What positional theories seek to explain is the cause or factors that trigger the terrorist reaction, including suicide terrorism. This view does not look for what kind of features in human beings are likely to make them susceptible to terrorism, but blame social and political factors which is responsible in the emergence of terrorist acts.However, the secret of the emergence of terrorism has not been fully opened up yet and the psychological analysis of terrorism is still ambiguous. One of the reasons that add to the vagueness of this branch of science is that, unlike other sub-branches such as election psychology or racism psychology, field research is almost impossible or difficult to accomplish.

Mohammad Zahir Akbari is the permanent writer of the Daily Outlook Afghanistan. He can be reached at mohammadzahirakbari@gmail.com

Go Top