Skip to Content

Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2620

Suicide Terrorism Less Popular among Sri Lanka’s Minority Tamils:American Academic Analyzes Suicide Terrorism

Daya Gamage – US Bureau of Asian Tribune

Washington, D.C. 17 September ( Mia Bloom, An America academic who had access to the Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanka - a banned terrorist group-- told the Center for Global Security and Democracy at her Rutgers University that the average Tamil individual does not support the use of violence against civilians. This comment was based on her research in Sri Lanka which explored how the civilians and the Tamil Tigers felt about suicide bombing.Dr. Mia Bloom: "There was a whole movement on the east coast (of Sri Lanka) where a lot of Tamil women started saying ‘we want our children back."Dr. Mia Bloom: "There was a whole movement on the east coast (of Sri Lanka) where a lot of Tamil women started saying ‘we want our children back."

"Are people going to march in the street against this? No. You’re not going to see that among Palestinians either. But you see the erosion of popularity. And the erosion of popularity has to be measured in more subtle ways," Dr. Mia Bloom who is currently affiliated with the Rutgers University Center for Global Security and Democracy.

Bloom, Ph.D. in Political Science, Columbia University, has studied at the American University of Cairo and at Tel Aviv University, and held a predoctoral position at Harvard University’s Program on Non-Violent Sanctions and Cultural Survival.

Her presentation was on a research she undertook in 2004 in Palestine, Europe and Sri Lanka on why suicide bombing has been effective in some conflicts, but rejected or abandoned in others.

She found that that the Tamil Tigers had decided to shift away from violence against civilians to targeted assassinations. "They did not want to go and kill lot of Sinhalese teenagers. And I finally worked up the courage and asked the (LTTE) leadership, ‘What’s the difference between you and Hamas since you both using suicide bombing?’ His response was, ‘We don’t go to the Pizza Hut."

Dr. Bloom pointed out; internal pressure from terrorist constituency groups can be effective in changing the tactics of terrorists. For example, the LTTE (Tamil Tigers) of Sri Lanka found particularly disturbing the fact that in 2000 and 2001 many Tamil mothers started to protest the tactics of Tamil Tigers. "There was a whole movement on the east coast (of Sri Lanka) where a lot of Tamil women started saying ‘we want our children back.’ The LTTE found it increasingly difficult to mobilize people and get them to join, so they started kidnapping people and using different kinds of mechanisms to induce ethnic Tamil minority to join the organization."

Dr. Mia Bloom makes an interesting observation about combating terrorism. Her research has shown a relationship between the strategies a state employs to fight terrorism and the likelihood of either an escalation or decline in terrorism. "It is interesting that in instances where a state responded very violently against the terrorist group in a way that lumped together the civilians, the terrorists, the non-combatants, punishing everyone, the domestic environment becomes a little bit more hospitable for terrorism. However, in instances where the state’s use of counter-terrorism was less heavy handed, it was possible to appeal to the people and make suicide bombing something that they found unpalatable."

As a matter of policy, Dr. Bloom says, it is much easier for governments to control their actions rather than to control terrorists’ actions. In her view, it is preferable for states to adjust their counter-terrorism policies to "appeal to the people who are suffering from terrorism or creating a hospitable environment for it to flourish."

Dr. Bloom looked at various terrorist organizations, regardless of location or underlying motivation, and compared them with organizations that were similar but did not kill civilians, in order to find out why some continue using this tactic and others do not. According to her support for IRA (Irish Republican Army) and ETA (a Basque separatist movement in Spain) began to fall as violence against civilians increased. Without popular support, funding dried up; without funding they were less able to act. Dr. Bloom found that terrorist groups’ ability to keep money flowing into their organizations depended heavily on the reaction of their constituencies. "It either constrained the use of violence, or it allowed the use of violence to run rampant." "Where a group’s supporters rejected attacking civilians, the money ceased to flow, leading these terrorist organizations to change their tactics. In short, the acceptance or rejection of civilian casualties by a group’s supporters directly affected where terrorist organizations continued to attack civilians or abandoned violence."

Dr. Bloom explains that in conflicts throughout history people often used violence against themselves as form of protest. Examples included the anti colonial movement in India in which people refused food as a means of protest, and the Vietnamese Buddhist monks setting themselves on fire to protest (prime minister) Dimh Diem’s government. These individuals showed themselves to be willing to give their lives for a greater cause. "There’s something different from strapping on a bomb and giving your life for the greater cause but taking many people with you."

- Asian Tribune -

Share this