October 15, 2014

Islam: The Way to the Light or the Road into the Darkness of the Middle Ages? 4

Part 4. Shaheed Belt

Terrorism as such is a method of achieving political goals by using violence against stronger enemies, while involving civilian deaths. It is very attractive to some extremist groups as a way of confrontation with whole countries and their regimes.

In the twenty-first century, the word «Shakhid» became widely spread mainly among journalists in regard to Islamist suicide bombers. One of the greatest theologians of the 13th century, a scholar of the Shafi'i Law School Imam Al-Nawawi in his book «Kitab al-Majmu'«pointed out the reasons why those who died in battle are called martyrs:

  • Allah himself testifies that they will be in heaven;
  • Angels proclaim their martyrdom when taking their souls;
  • Their death on the battlefield is a clear sign of faith;
  • Their shed blood is evidence of their sincere faith in Allah;
  • They are among those who will testify on communities;
  • Their soul will testify about heaven (i.e. it will see heaven).



Shakhid (Arabic. Šahīd, comes from the Arabic Šahāda), literally «bearing witness, testifying». In Islam, this concept is applied to a witness at the trial, and in respect of the faithful, martyred in the war against the enemy, fighting for the sake of Allah. Shakhid is a person who has learnt and has converted to Islam, has acknowledged and testifies to the truth of the one God, believes in afterlife and eternity, and therefore easily gets rid of earthly bonds, is not afraid of death and through participation in jihad accepts Shahadah. Is used in the sense of «martyr for the faith».

Martyrdom for the faith, one way or another, is characteristic of all the monotheistic religions. Both Islam and Christianity highly honor those who died for the faith.


The wider definition of the term was, in particular, given in a report by one of the leaders of the Israeli Institute of World Politics in the sphere of struggle against terrorism E. Shveyttser «Suicide bombers' terrorism is a politically motivated use of force, carried out by an individual (individuals) who actively and purposefully destroys him/herself together with the chosen object. Inevitable death of the performer of such action is the key to the success of a terrorist operation.»

His weapon – Shaheed (suicide bomber's) belt (“suicide belt”) is often a self-made explosive device that is worn by a suicide bomber on the body under the clothes for the murder (usually mass one) by suicide bombing.

For the first time this weapon was used by «The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam». Israeli General R. Eytan wrote in his memoirs that one of the first «suicide belts» with explosives was found on the body of one of the three Palestinian terrorists murdered April 11, 1974 in the settlement of Kiryat Shmona.

Some sources mention another incident that occurred in June 1982 during the Lebanon war: in the course of defense of the Palestinian refugee camp Ain al-Hilweh in Sidon a few defenders counter-attacked Israeli soldiers, «having put on explosive belts in order to explode in the midst of enemies». However, at that time the «belts» did not become widely spread, although later a similar weapon became popular with members of the «Hamas». as well as among other Islamist terrorists.

In the 2000s, there were cases of using a belt of explosives by Chechen terrorists, in particular, during the terrorist attack on October 23-26, 2002 in Moscow and September 1-3, 2004, in Beslan.

Shaheed belt

In the classic version «suicide belt» is a wide cloth belt, into which are sewn several cylinders (often cuttings of water pipes) filled with explosives and destructive agents (steel or glass balls, screws, nuts, bolts, nails, pieces of thick wire) and connected by wires to the switch, usually located in the terrorist's pocket or bosom.

A more sophisticated variant is made of «tiles» of plastic explosives sewn into a cloth belt together with containers filled with destructive agents.

Sometimes as destructive agents are used plastic needles (“flashet”) that are not detected by a metal detector. If there is an explosive manufactured at a factory (TNT, melinite or hexogen) in standard priming charges, the load formed of them is a package where priming charges are laid up in destructive agents. Sometimes are used not belts but vests, with sewn in boms, thus increasing their overall capacity and the number of damage agents. In this case, the weight of the explosive may reach 10-12 kg.

The cost of producing one «suicide bomber's belt» is usually low; the cost of materials for the explosive devices used by suicide bombers in Israel is estimated at an average of 150 US dollars, while the increase of donations from sympathizing Islamic foundations, organizations and individuals can be expressed by the sum of several hundred million dollars.

Who becomes a Shaheed? What environment cultivates them?

In Islamist terrorist organizations is perfectly developed the system of search and recruitment of a suicide murderer, his/her psychological and special brainwashing and training. In such organizations, the very Islamic culture helps becoming a suicide bomber because it creates a psychological readiness for relentless struggle up to the self-sacrifice to save the Muslims' values in armed attacks, pressure from outside forces or their own ruling regimes aimed at blurring the prevailing among Muslims traditions and norms of life. This willingness is also enhanced by negative social factors.

For organizations such as the «Hezbollah». HAMAS, «Islamic Jihad» and some other, it is easy to find a candidate for the role of a suicide bomber. In the media, there were described cases when candidates for some actions were found just one week before the terrorist attacks.

It is believed that a suicide bomber is a pathological personality, characteristic features of which are narcissistic aggression, experience of fear, depressions, a sense of indelible guilt, authoritarianism, ascribing to himself and others a lack of manliness, self-absorption, extreme extroversion.

Earlier it was also believed that suicide bombers were mostly representatives of the poorest strata of society. However, as shows the analysis of the document, «The Holy Martyrs of Mesopotamia». posted on an Islamist Internet forum and including 430 biographies of suicide bombers from the radical organization «Al-Qaeda». among them there were many highly educated people who had well paid jobs and had got education in educational institutions of Europe and the United States. Studying of 32 biographies of suicide bombers showed that their only common feature was absence of strong social ties and susceptibility to external influence. This factor is enhanced by the almost complete isolation of the suicide murderer from external social contacts immediately before the commission of a terrorist act.

The analysis of the contingent of Palestinian suicide-bombers, previously held by the Israeli experts showed that:

  • They are young people 18 to 27 years old;
  • Not married, unemployed, from a poor family;
  • School educated;
  • In the majority — students of Islamic educational centers in Gaza and at the West Bank, under the patronage of HAMAS;
  • Some of the suicide bombers had been arrested before by the Israeli secret services, expressed a desire to avenge the death of or injury to their relatives or friends.

Devaluation of life, making easier the commission of suicide terrorist attack, may be motivated by the desire to get rid of loneliness felt by a person who physically or mentally lost all his loved ones, of a stigma, of the feeling of humiliation for their ethnicity or group. It is known that among suicide bombers there are many young people who survived a war and grew up in a refugee family. Ideologues of jihad using suicide bombers often stress that those are actions of victims, in order to attract attention to their humiliated place in the society.

In the presence of social norms approving the commission of acts of terrorism as a way to fight to achieve certain goals, increases the effect of mechanisms of emulation (e.g., of brother-suicide bomber) and conformal team (following instructions of revered religious authorities (mentor, mullah).

As a rule, the process of selecting candidates for suicide bombers is carried out in Islamic educational centers, sponsored by Islamic radicals or by individuals who are under their influence, as well as in mosques during religious education and preaching.

Terrorist organizations for the role of suicide-bomber often seek teenagers, as the latter are more susceptible to influence and less stable psychologically than adults are. For example, in early 2006, HAMAS created a website for children, where are famed teenagers-“Shaheeds» and there are calls for children «to become Shaheeds». Arabic newspaper «Al-Sharq Al-Awsat» in an interview with representatives of the grouping HAMAS about how Palestinian people are chosen to become suicide bombers, reported: «There are four criteria by which we decide who suits us. Firstly, religiosity, and secondly, we check whether the Shaheed is performing his parents' will, and whether his death will or will not affect negatively the position of his family. If he is the father of a family or the only son, he does not suit us. Thirdly, he must understand the importance of his mission. And, fourthly, his death should light the fire of jihad in the hearts of others, and cause in them a desire to sacrifice their lives.»

Experts in the field of fight against terrorism divide all terrorists into categories. Terrorist attacks involving suicide bombers make not more than 3 % of all terrorist attacks committed in the world, but they are responsible for up to 50 % of the victims.

At the heart of the motivation of Shaheeds there are a few reasons: religious fanaticism, extremism, desire for revenge, vendetta. At this, it should be borne in mind that his family after the action is surrounded by honor and receives financial support for 1 thousand US dollars. Upon admission to the educational institutions, the younger members of the Shaheed's family are provided with scholarships. For the maintenance of the families of suicide bombers the organization «Hezbollah». for example, annually allocated up to 70 million US dollars. 50 % of this amount came from the Gulf countries, 35 % — from Europe (mainly from the UK), 15 % — from the United States. Information about a terrorist act and the death of the suicide bomber is considered by his family and the environment as a great holiday: parents receive congratulations, treat is arranged, everybody is celebrating...

Much more terrorists are ready to die «for the idea». but to stay alive at this. These are fanatics. For them, the most important is everyone’s attention. In the whole structure of terrorism, fanatics make about 30 %.

The third category is mercenaries, amounting to approximately 50 %. They sign a contract, and for them the main thing is to get money for a terrorist act.

The fourth category of terrorists is ideologues. They are the ones who «order» terrorist acts, and perhaps pay for their execution. They count for approximately 10 %, but they are very dangerous, because they are the «brain» of terrorism. According to MD, a forensic psychiatrist M. V. Vinogradov: «... They tend to have high intelligence, high level of thinking, great will power, ability to dictate their will to others, a great energetics. They are also characterized by the complete absence of universal moral and ethical principles».

Selection of the candidate and his training is carried out, approximately, according to the following scheme:

  • With a group of students or parishioners is discussed the theme of death in the name of Allah. The preacher watches the reaction to this topic. Those who show a keen interest thereon are isolated from the group.
  • After the selection of the candidate begins his careful preparation, so that the reaction and behavior in an emergency did not prevent him from carrying out the task. Only those of the candidates who show confidence, composure and patience are allowed to proceed to the next stage of training;
  • At this stage of the preparation the candidate «disappears» from his family, and a quite long period of his training in all aspects of the future mission begins.

Explosive devices and their application techniques, as a rule, are studied at the last stage of preparation, in order not to sow doubt in the correctness of the choice of the candidate. During this period, is also carried out physical training and psychological «refinement» of the candidate. Some of the suicide bombers in order to overcome the fear of death are even taken to the cemetery where they lay for several hours in graves.

To fulfill his task the bomber is sent from the mosque, and is accompanied by a support group. By this time, the level of psychological readiness of the suicide bomber is so high that he passes by security officers and approaches the goal without a shadow of excitement. Committing an act of self-destruction, the suicide bomber is usually smiling, anticipating the afterlife pleasures awaiting for him. This kind of smile has been noted by many witnesses of terrorist acts.

The tactic of using suicide bombers includes both single and group attacks on objects. Stages of planning and preparation for a terrorist act with the use of suicide bombers are held in strict secrecy. That is why, in most cases, special services with great difficulty can (and sometimes cannot) find out its true initiators, as well as the moment of receiving by the Shaheed of the signal for the beginning of the terrorist operation.

Great importance is attached to the element of unexpectedness, which is achieved by the lack of templates in the tactics of the operation, by the use of different types of explosive devices, by the choice of place and time of the terrorist act.

According to experts, the use of suicide bombers to carry out terrorist attacks gives the spiritual leaders of radical Islamist organizations great advantages: bombers blow themselves up in crowded places, taking lives of others, send trucks full of explosives to the designated objects.

These advantages are as follows:

  • High availability (permeability) of the explosive device to the target of the attack, relatively low cost of preparation of the terrorist act and its performer;
  • The use of suicide tactics ensures that the attack will take place at the most appropriate time, with maximum accuracy in time and place, with a specific choice of the target for its destruction;
  • Actions involving suicide bombers always hit the media focus, and cause great public response, criticism of the law enforcement, security systems and authorities, thus achieving the desired propaganda effect;
  • Carrying out such attacks, leaders of Islamist organizations demonstrate their ability to destabilize the situation in the region, enhance their «authority». and at the same time work out the money received from sponsors;
  • Carrying out such actions does not need preparation of escape routes for the performers. Under these conditions, the possibility that the performer will be arrested and fall into the hands of police, security services and give their masters, is minimized;
  • A significant public response in a special way advertises the performers’ readiness for self-sacrifice, helps the recruitment of new suicide bombers going to be martyred for their faith;
  • Suicide bombers’ acts involve terrorizing of the population and formation of a significant part’s opinion that these fanatics cannot be stopped, and that organizations using suicide bombers, are composed of many like them.

The use of women as Shaheeds

Organizers of modern Islamist terrorism began to actively use women as suicide bombers because they are easier to manipulate because of their greater compared to men, vulnerability. Besides, women arouse less suspicion than men do, and therefore it is easier to get into the chosen for terrorist attacks places.

It is believed that the most common way is coercion. The reason for it, for example, can serve an accusation of fornication, and then the only way to avoid public shame for the whole family can be a Shaheed’s act. In such cases, the Muslim community believes that the woman had preferred the «honorable» death to a «shameful» one. There is much evidence of deliberate rape of the chosen candidates in order to exclude their refusal to fulfill the task under threat of disclosure of the fact of «shame».

Not few are cases when women see in the terrorist attack the only way of liberation from the unbearable living conditions in the family, because the possibility of divorce for them is practically excluded.

Frequent has become the case, when the girl, being sold by her father to the elderly and unpleasant man, prefers to make any kind of act, if only to go to jail. In this case, she can rely on becoming unattainable for the groom for a long time. But in this case we are not talking about Shaheed action.

Apart from the Middle East and Southeast Asia, suicide bombers have left their bloody mark on Europe and Central Asia.

Today, the phenomenon of suicide terrorism has become most widely spread in extremist organizations of Islamic fundamentalists. Speculating on the teachings of Islam and deliberately misrepresenting its provisions, especially the doctrine of the «jihad». orthodox currents generate the most fanatical suicide bombers.

Islamic radicals, aiming at creation of on the basis of the Muslim world of the «Single Caliphate» living under Sharia law, considers its main enemy the influence of the Western liberal idea, breaking the laws and traditions of Islam. Therefore, the objects of their attacks are Western European countries.

According to foreign experts, currently 14 radical terrorist organizations from 12 countries of the world have resorted to the use of suicide bombers in their operations.

To be continued