Monday, February 11, 2002
Professor of Psychology
Director, Program for Political Violence
Dr. Merari is perhaps the world’s foremost expert on the psychology of suicide terrorists and political violence in general.He is probably the only person who has collected empirical data on suicide terrorists.
Although many terrorist groups have carried out very high-risk attacks that were described by them self-sacrificial, in a strict sense suicidal terrorism only includes attacks in which the perpetrators deliberately killed themselves while killing others. With this definition in mind, suicide terrorism is a new phenomenon, which started in Lebanon in 1983. Terrorist groups of several nationalities have carried out attacks that belong in this category, among them Lebanese, Palestinian, Tamil, Kurdish, Turkish, and Chechen. Empirical data collected since this form of terrorism first appeared in Lebanon suggests that terrorist suicide is an organizational rather than a personal phenomenon. It is planned and prepared by an organization rather than by the person who commits the suicide. The individual characteristics of suicide terrorists are different from the generally accepted features of other suicides in both demographic and psychological attributes. Religious motives are not a pre-requisite for suicidal terrorism, nor is the belief in reward in Paradise. In themselves, these motives are neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for creating a suicide terrorist. Like other powerful motives, however (e.g., patriotism, hate of the enemy, etc.), these themes are used by religious groups for strengthening the suicide candidate’s resolve.
Characteristics of the suicides as well as the process of recruiting and training them for their mission will be described in detail in the presentation.
Invited by Rowell Huesmann