Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Images of paradise and children as suicide bombers

Children have been used in war throughout history. However, modern weaponry is making the contrast of innocence and violence even more extreme. The use of children has been especially a problem in several wars in Africa - and we have all seen jarring images of young children holding semi-automatic weapons. But the Taliban are taking it to the next level: child suicide bombers. Here is an article (and a video below) that talks about the use of paintings of heaven (yes, with rivers of milk and honey) on children as young as 12 to recruit them for suicide missions. The story that the Hashshashin, in the Middle Ages, used hallucinogenic-induced dreams about paradise to recruit their assassins may turn out to be false, but the legend may still have its legs. Though not short on opium, the Taliban instead have decided to use imagery of paradise on impressionable young kids (also check-out the slide-show):

"I have never seen such elaborate paintings about so-called heaven," Taliban expert Zahid Hussein says, looking at the images.

He has seen similar tactics in the past and spoken extensively with would-be child suicide bombers in the custody of the authorities.

"They [the militants] say life is a waste here and if you do a good thing you will go to heaven, immediately to heaven. For someone who does not have anything to look forward to, who does not have any opportunities and is living a wretched life, this sort of thing comes as a big incentive," Hussein explains.

He says the children end up believing that their life in this world is worthless, that life only starts in the hereafter. The Taliban is offering them a fast track option to paradise, a longed for escape from their daily reality surrounded by violence.

And here is the video:

Yes, this is also a strategic public relations move by the Pakistan Army fighting in South- Waziristan and it will play an important role in shaping up opinion about the Taliban. The problem is that this scenario is not that far-fetched: check out earlier posts about the recruitment of suicide bombers, and also this interview with a suicide bomber. Also see this article about the Taliban buying children for suicide mission at the rate of $7,000-$14,000 - a big amount for the northern areas of Pakistan. I'm surprised by the claim of Zahid Hussain that almost 90% of suicide bombers in Pakistan are between the ages of 12 and 18. If this is correct, then manipulation of children becomes another big dimension to be added to the causes of suicide bombings. Depressing.


Graycard said...

We are blessed--blessed!!--to have these wonderful people teaching us compassion.

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