What are the reasons for the rise in suicide attacks?

Politically-inspired suicide attacks in the Middle East initially emerged in the 1980s, during the Lebanese Civil War, when Hezbollah began to use suicide attacks against its targets. From then on until the early 21st Century, some 200 suicide attacks were carried out in different parts of the world. Yet, it was only in the 2000s when these attacks began to grab the headlines with an ever-increasing frequency as the number of total attacks over the past three decades reached 3,500. Only in 2013, 291 suicide attacks were carried out in eighteen countries, claiming the lives of 3,100 people, marking a dramatic increase of 25% compared to previous year (with 230 attacks).

Most of these attacks were staged in Muslim countries. The Middle East, with Iraq coming in at the top of the list, saw too many suicide attacks to count over the last ten years. Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, Lebanon, Tunisia, Libya, Somalia, Mali and Nigeria are among the Muslim countries that are frequently hit by suicide attacks. 

What drove the increase in the attacks? The political instability in these countries is an important factor. Despite the common assumption that suicide bombings target occupying powers, only 32% of the attacks were actually carried out in countries where a foreign army was present. 68% of the bombings target the own citizens of the country; in other words, innocent civilians are overwhelmingly the victims in these attacks.

In countries like Iraq and Syria, the attacks are usually prompted by sectarian and ethnic differences, while in Egypt they are usually carried out due to conflicts between nationalist secular forces and Islamic groups. The suicide attacks usually target the most crowded areas like restaurants, markets, mosques and public transportation; places where civilians can easily be found and where women, children and the elderly, are specific targets in these attacks. Indeed, attacks can even be perpetrated as Muslims are worshiping during the Friday prayers, as we’ve seen in Iraq, or while religious celebrations are going on, as in Yemen. This is very thought-provoking.

When the perpetrators are asked to explain the reasoning behind their actions, because of their deficient educational background and unawareness of true Qur’anic moral values, which in truth embody forgiveness, peace and love, they claim to be doing these atrocities in the name of Islam. For this reason, explaining the morals of Islam based on the Qur’an is a priority. It is essential to start a world-wide campaign to this end.

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