Suicide Bombers and Society. A Study on Suicide Bombers in Afghanistan and Pakistan


  • Ann Wilkens

Publish date: 2011-03-16

Report number: FOI-R--3058--SE

Pages: 65

Written in: English


  • suicide bombers
  • Taliban movements
  • martyrdom
  • inversion
  • respect
  • humiliation
  • moral crimes
  • blasphemy laws
  • hyperbole


During the last decade, suicide attacks have emerged as an almost daily phenomenon in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Compared to previous waves of suicide bombings in the Middle East, the attacks in this area present slightly different characteristics, situating them closer to the martyrdom ideology developed by the Iranian regime during the war against Iraq in the 1980s. Suicide bombers tend to be very young, a number of them educated in religious schools, madrassas. This study suggests that the rapid development towards a growing number of suicide attacks, which, in spite of the indiscriminate killings of innocent victims linked to them, have been largely accepted as an instrument of asymmetrical warfare, could have been facilitated by some features in the surrounding societies. The concept of "inversion" is used to characterize these phenomena, which turn basic values upside down. Judicial practices which punish tjhe victim rather than the perpetrator, as in manyrape cases, serve as an example. In both Afghanistan and Pakistan, the backdrop to the emergence of suicide bombings consists of multiple and persistent crises in the security, political and economic areas, which have stretched the social fabric close to breaking points. The sectors identified as crucially needing reform, if the descent into lawlessness is to be turned around, are education, gender relations and the judiciary. At the same time it is concluded that the scope for successful Western interventions has been reduced, as various conflicts involving the Muslim world have been left unsolved.