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The Rise of the Suicide Bomber By: Phyllis Chesler and Nancy H. Kobrin
FrontPageMagazine.com | Tuesday, December 06, 2005

In both sex and political serial killings, there is a criminal mind at work - one that murders in cold blood and requires body-parts and a terrified public. Serial sex criminals torture and murder strangers, usually, though not always, women. Serial political killers use their own people to torture and murder strangers. And, they send their own women, men and children to do their barbaric and nihilistic dirty work.

The phenomenon of serial suicide murders in a political context began in Lebanon
in the early 1980s, courtesy of the Shi`ite groups Amal and Hizbullah and the Islamic republic of Iran. By the mid-1980s, a few small groups (such as the Lebanese communist party and the Syrian Socialist Nationalist party) committed copy-cat serial killings by proxy in Lebanon, and by the late 1980s, in Sri Lanka. “Serial killings by proxy” means that the overlords, masterminds, and bomb-makers remain alive to kill both their own operatives and civilians and enemy forces time and again.

In 1993, suicide murder became the weapon of ultimate choice in the Palestinian and Arab war against the Jews. The first such attack took place on April 16, 1993, when Hamas struck near a settlement in the Jordan valley. The bomber killed himself and one Israeli and injured seven Israelis. In the last decade, serial political killings have no longer been confined to the Middle East but have come to afflict civilians on almost every continent.
Most of the suicide killers have been men. However, women have increasingly been either forced or seduced into playing a more visible role as political suicide killers. For example, in 1985, 17-year-old Sana'a Mehaydali, also known as “the bride of the South,” used a yellow booby-trapped Mercedes-Benz (the cars are also known as “torches’) to ram into the back of an Israeli Defense Force convoy in south Lebanon
. Mehaydali was a member of the Syrian Socialist Nationalist Party­ and she was Christian, not Muslim. (Explaining that will require a separate article; suffice it to say, Christian Phalangist groups imitated Shi’ite Iranian groups in Lebanon and used Mafia tactics such as mutilating and sending body parts to their rivals.)

One-third of the Sri Lankan Tamil Tigers suicide killers have been women. In 1991, Dhanu assassinated Ragiv Ghandi. Dhanu, a Hindu, was reportedly gang-raped and may have turned to suicide murder as a way of cleansing her dishonor. However, after 9/11, Prabhakaran, their leader, decided to stop using suicide terrorism as a tactic. Interestingly, Muslim women did not become suicide killers until the mid-1990s when the Marxist PKK (The Kurdistan Workers’ Party) used women as suicide killers.

Women suicide killers have been associated with at least three major religions (Christianity, Hinduism, and Islam), and with Marxist, secular political parties and liberation movements as well. However, the true serial killers are not the actual operatives, whether male or female. They are men like al-Qaeda’s Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahari, and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi; the PKK’s Ocalan; the Sri Lankan, Prabhakaran, and the Chechen Basayev. All six men are evil, diabolically clever, and highly charismatic. Ocalan brutally recruited his first female suicide killer by having her watch him shoot another woman who had refused to go on the same mission. Ocalan was caught in Kenya
and is currently imprisoned in Turkey.

Just as detectives focus on each detail of the crime scene and create psychological portraits of the serial killer, we now need to focus on the political crime scene and on the psychological and cultural make-up of the serial killer. In addition to being relentlessly brainwashed with anti-infidel propaganda, what are some things that these serial killers and their proxies have in common? In addition to relentless anti-infidel brainwashing, all the political serial killers have been raised in cultures in which women are breathtakingly devalued. However, sons nevertheless idealize and revere their mothers almost as if their mothers are exceptions to the female rule.


The nature of the relationship between son and mother is therefore a highly charged one. Sons deny that they hate their (idealized) mother and they deny their dependence upon their mothers who are, after all, devalued women. Thus, al-Zarqawi be-headed Nicholas Berg exactly 40 days (the traditional period of mourning in Islam) after his own mother had died and he then went on a rampage in which he be-headed many hostages. Dutch-Moroccan Bouyeri assassinated Theo von Gogh only months after Boyeri’s mother died. Also, bin Laden’s mother was banished and Nidal Arabiyat’s mother died when both men were young. Therefore, maternal idealization is potentially even more dangerous when one’s mother is truly absent. Serial sex killers and serial political killers also live in cultures in which fathers are routinely brutal and mothers cannot protect their children or themselves.

Serial suicide killings will continue to spread like wildfire and more and more women and children will increasingly be used as proxies. We must all urge law enforcement, military intelligence, and foreign policy leaders to factor in cultural and family dynamics, including the status of women, as they decipher and try to contain the epidemic of jihadist rage that drives serial suicide murders.


Phyllis Chesler Ph.D is the author of 13 books, including “The New Anti-Semitism” and newly released “The Death of Feminism. What’s Next in the Struggle for Women’s Freedom.” (Palgrave-Macmillan). Nancy H.Kobrin Ph.D is an affiliate professor at Haifa University, an Arabist, psycho-analyst, and author of the forthcoming book The Sheikh’s New Clothes: Islamic Suicide Terrorism and What It’s Really All About.”


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