In the past year the tragic events in the Middle East have brought out a the efficiency and lethal capability of a new weapon, that of a suicide bomber. Many, specially in the West, seem baffled as to why would anyone specially a young person blow himself or herself up. How can a person become a suicide bomber? Although the Western media have made a huge issue out of this question, suicide bombings may not be very difficult to comprehend.
Imagine a seven year old boy who one day witnesses that soldiers have broken to his home. They are taking a way his father, beating him. He sees his mother crying, his sisters clinging to his father, begging the soldiers not to take him. He never sees his father again. As he grows up he is faced with feelings of shame and humiliation. He has no future, no plans for an education. He has no hope. This is fertile ground for rising suicide bombers.
Many believe suicide bombings are acts of terror. This is a correct assumption. No one in the right mind would agree that blowing up innocent civilians is in any way justified. What the Western politicians fail to mention, however, is that suicide bombers, have many things in common. First, they are usually people that are focused, determined and full of hate.
Humiliation is a very strong phenomenon that will lead a human being to commit despicable acts including acts of terror. When a Palestinian girl sees the kind of hardship and oppression her relatives and friends go through day after day, hatred builds up day by day, year after year. Until one day it reaches the point of no return.
Another important point Western politicians fail to understand or don't want to admit is that suicide bombers are extremely brave and patriotic individuals. I doubt that the most elite, patriotic commandos in the US army would ever have the will or desire to deliberately blow themselves up for their country. And of course how can we forget Japanese Kamikaze pilots who crashed their planes into US warships? Imagine if Iraq had invaded our country and we had no army, no infantry, no air force. How many suicide bombers would we have to drive the aggressor out of our land? I would guess 60 million.
Another factor that many suicide bombers share is the feeling of hopelessness. Most of them have no jobs, no opportunity for an education. They have no dreams. When they see that their land is occupied by a powerful nation and the whole world including their Muslim brothers are sitting back and watching, well why not become a suicide bomber? After all, what is there to be lost?
Let's not forget that in the US many people have committed acts of terror where they take the lives of innocent individuals and and usually die in the process. It is not hard to find many situations when a gunman goes to an office or former place of work and opens fire on innocent individuals — and at the end killing himself. These individuals also share many characteristics with suicide bombers including the feelings of shame — shame that may have scarred them for life when their boss fired them in front of their colleagues. Hopelessness when they know that the possibility of finding another job is slim.
Some may say we all feel desperate at some point in our life, how come we don't kill others and our self? There are no clear answers. Our brains don't all function exactly in the same manner. But one thing is clear. Suicide bombers are not born suicide bombers. They become suicide bombers. I am appalled that the US administration has never attempted to explore the reasons behind this tragic phenomenon.
Unless there is some justice for helpless Palestinians, we will witness more tragedies.
Dr. Etminan is a pharmaceutical researcher at the University of Toronto. His recent findings on a new class of drugs that may prevent headache will be published in the June 2002 issue of the American Journal of Medicine.