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Martyrdom (1:21) Excerpt from film "Suicide Bombers", 2004
18-year-old Mohanned Abu Tayyoun talks about the reasons behind his decision to conduct a martyr operation.

Country: Israel and Palestine
Related Lesson Plan:
  • Dying to be a Martyr

  • middle east israel map

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    Guiding Questions
    1. Summarize the reasons Mohanned gave for deciding to conduct a martyr operation. How do you react to his reasoning?

    2. To what extent is Mohanned's reasoning rooted in the inability to make choices?

    3. Does Mohanned represent the 'despair of the disenfranchised'? Does this type of characterization make the mistake of relieving him from responsibility?
    Background Essay
    18-year-old Mohanned Abu Tayyoun, a Palestinian, discusses his decision to participate in a martyr operation. He believes that through this type of act he will be liberated from the suffering of his bodily existence.

    The use of the term "suicide terrorism" became widespread after a 1983 truck bombing in Beirut, Lebanon. The attack killed 300 military personnel and helped drive American and French Multinational Force troops from Lebanon. According to a 1994 UN General Assembly resolution titled "Measures to Eliminate International Terrorism," terrorism is described as "Criminal acts intended or calculated to provoke a state of terror in the general public, a group of persons or particular persons for political purposes."

    As a consequence of the successful 1983 attack in Lebanon, insurgent groups such as the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, Hamas in Palestine, and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan began using suicide terrorism as a tactic to further their agendas. Suicide terrorism garners considerable prestige for the perpetrators and their organizations because these attacks are represented as acts of martyrdom; many attackers, along with their supporters, believe their actions will be rewarded in the afterlife. Suicide attackers often believe that their actions are in accordance with moral or social standards because they are aimed at fighting forces and conditions that they perceive as unjust.

    For Israeli and Palestinian citizens, suicide bombings have become a recurrent element in a longstanding conflict. The roots of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can be traced to the late 19th century, when British support for a Jewish state in the area of Palestine grew amidst an era marked by national movements, including Zionism and Arab nationalism. Jews and Arabs have been fighting for a long time over what to do about the region known as the Holy Land, a region with historical and religious importance.

    The Wide Angle film SUICIDE BOMBERS offers a series of unique, powerful, and revealing interviews of Palestinian suicide bombers from inside Israeli prisons. Three failed suicide bombers, one recruiter, and one bomb builder captured by Israeli security forces speak openly of their training, operational methodology, and profound belief in the idea of entering paradise by becoming a shahid, a martyr killed in the cause of Islam. They talk of their hatred of Jews and Israel, their determination to die, and their personal motives — including a failed love, a sense of personal revenge, the frustration of living under Israeli occupation, and envy for the prosperous Israeli style of life.
    What I want to talk to you about is why you wanted to conduct a martyr operation.

    It was my decision. Martyrdom leads us to God. I don't want this life. When you become a martyr your prize for carrying out the operation is going to heaven. I want to go to paradise where there's happiness and joy, where there are no problems. There I get all I want. I get to be with the 70 virgins. Here, our life is full of problems. We Palestinians prefer to die, just kill ourselves, rather than live this worthless life. Our life's worthless. We're hollow bodies leading a pointless life. Israelis enjoy their life. They go out at night, they have cafes and nightclubs. They travel all over the world. They go to America and Britain. We can't even leave Palestine.

    Related Links
    Suicide Bombers on PBS.org

    BBC News: In Depth: Israel and the Palestinians

    Library of Congress: Country Study: Israel

    Council on Foreign Relations: Terrorism: Q & A - Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

    United Nations: Question of Palestine
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