the cedar ledge

Why Do People Become Terrorists? A Prosecutor's Experiences

Date: August 23 2022

Summary: A autobiographical sketch on why a person might become a terrorist

Keywords: #archive #terrorist #motivation #violence


A. Spataro, "Why Do People Become Terrorists?: A Prosecutor’s Experiences," Journal of International Criminal Justice, vol. 6, no. 3, pp. 507–524, Jul. 2008, doi: 10.1093/jicj/mqn033.

Table of Contents

  1. How To Cite
  2. References:
  3. Discussion:

Interesting comment in this paper about how convicted terrorists will harken back their cause to injustice suffered by those they perceive as having a special kinship with. Also, ideological motives do come up but the similarity piece appears more important than holding the same values.

Motivations for becoming a terrorist:

  1. Search for community belonging

  2. Attempt to reaffirm identity

  3. Search for prestige through "strong" leaders of communities 6

A powerful quote from this paper is that, "Modern Islamic terrorists are made, not born." There are routes from which would-be extremists come from:

  1. Could start that something is wrong and needs to be corrected

  2. It is perceived that the problem cannot be solved with means provided by a society's political or legal framework

  3. Accepting an ideology or developing a worldview that breaks down the barriers that stop most from committing acts of violence to be overcome.

The moment when individuals "can conceive of... acts of appalling brutality..." (Burke, supranote 2, at 247-248).

H. Shmuel Erlich, 'Reflections on the Terrorist Mind, in Varvin and Volkan, ibid., chap. 9, states how the psyche of a terrorist's mind 'is not marked by gross deviance', and 'the attempt to depict "the Terrorist" as a deranged, emotionally deprived and impoverished, mentally ill person is misleading and basically wrong' (at 148).

NOTE: This is a fascinating note that many terrorists are not apparently "crazy" or terribly psychologically deranged but rather is misleading

In the relationship that inevitably takes shape with the collaborators with justice, I have at times been struck by the astonishment and gratitude with which they welcomed even simple gestures of courtesy or human interest on my part, which were evidently interpreted as signs, almost as proof, of the existence of a personal relationship of acceptance and sympathy. It is something they marvel at and do not seem to have expected. This means that the Public Prosecutor does not become just the collaborator's reference point in the course of the criminal proceedings awaiting him, which are often long and complex. The Public Prosecutor also becomes the addressee of a trust that projects beyond the judicial occasion and concerns the future of that person.

One final note that was highlighted by this collection of perspectives was the fact that terrorists who collaborate on behalf of justice enjoy the apparent friendship that can be struck up with the public prosecutor. To me, it highlights the importance of meeting the social needs of these terrorists or would-be terrorists as a means to prevent terrorism.

How To Cite

Zelko, Jacob. Why Do People Become Terrorists? A Prosecutor's Experiences. August 23 2022.



CC BY-SA 4.0 Jacob Zelko. Last modified: May 19, 2024. Website built with Franklin.jl and the Julia programming language.