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On the Causes of Child Suicide Attacks and How to Stop Them
Ashraf Al-'Ajrami, Palestine
May 3, 2002
Why Palestinian Children Commit Suicide Attacks
The phenomenon of martyrdom [perpetrating suicide attacks] is on the
increase, particularly among youth and minors. It seems that the
Palestinians' distress from their lives of difficulty and degradation
under the occupation pushes many to disdain life and seek the shortest
way to the Hereafter, in order to free themselves of reality and reach
The honor and esteem that the Palestinian people gives to the martyrs
has, no doubt, had a crucial effect on the emergence of this phenomenon.
Likewise, the funerals of the martyrs and the celebrations held in their
honor have always been accompanied by talk of life everlasting and the
eternal serenity [promised] in Paradise, making people think: "Why wait
and go on living a life of misery when Paradise can be reached by the
mere press of a button or even by coming in range of Israeli shooting."
There is danger in exploiting the nationalist sentiments and enthusiasm
among minors to encourage them to martyr themselves for nothing, as has
happened in the Gaza Strip. There, children have recently risked their
lives to be martyrs and to attain life everlasting, or at least a hero's
funeral and festivities in their honor, as are held for martyrs.
Some Gaza children are influenced by the schools, the mosques, or the
gatherings attended by many children at which praise for sacrifice and
martyrdom is voiced.
Some are willing to arm them for money—with pistols, hand grenades,
and readily available pipe bombs that cost only a few shekels. These
brainwashed children are imbued with motivation to approach the nearest
settlement, where they are shot dead by the soldiers of the occupation.
Our data indicates that a considerable number of the children who
martyred themselves in the Gaza Strip went to the settlements in broad
daylight, or in open areas; in 90% of the incidents, they faced danger,
because they were armed with grenades, pipe bombs, and similar
objects—in most cases purchased with their own money—and in all cases
incapable of harming the occupiers.
Besides, the children's martyrdom [suicide] promotes the hostile
propaganda of the enemies, particularly in reinforcing their claims that
the Palestinians send their children to the front line. These are false
claims aimed at justifying the indiscriminate shooting at all the
Palestinians, shooting that has caused the deaths of many children
throughout the months of the Intifada and constitutes a danger to the
lives of these small youths whose homeland will need them when they grow
up and are able to serve society.
Furthermore, the phenomenon causes [a tendency] among the children to
rebel against their parents. Following the phenomenon's spread, it was
noticed that children were threatening their parents that they would
martyr themselves if they [the parents] did not meet their demands or
did not turn a blind eye to [the children's] inappropriate behavior.
Moreover, some of the children have used pipe bombs during arguments
amongst themselves, as has happened in more than one place.
How to Stop Palestinian Children Suicide Attacks
Collective efforts should be made to contain and stop this phenomenon.
These must begin at home, where the children should be supervised, cared
for, in particular having their moral needs met, and their activities
and movements monitored. Then, [the same] at school and in the
mosque—and this is the responsibility of the Palestinian Authority. All
activities having an ill effect on the children's emotional stability,
pulling them in directions outside the normal matters of children, must
be monitored. The schools should take it upon themselves to engage the
children in developing hobbies and utilizing their time for positive
activities that help develop their character, reinforce their reason,
and free them from the negative influence of the events happening in the
Similarly the security apparatuses should apprehend the arms
traffickers and collaborators acting among the youths to make money or
to exterminate this generation with its nationalist enthusiasm and its
will to fight. These arms traffickers and collaborators should be
It is also important to stop the mosques from engaging in exaggerated
political activity that provides [fertile] ground for anyone who wants to abuse the minds of youths and minors.
The Palestinian media have an important role to play in refraining from
broadcasting pictures affecting the emotional state of the children, and
in refraining from exaggerating in reporting tragic news that arouses
among the children feelings of frustration and despair. Similarly,
children's programs must constitute a proportionate part of the entire
broadcasting, and they should be [broadcast] frequently in times of
[We] all must keep in mind the fact that the current situation is
temporary, and that the future will be better. The future, at any rate,
belongs to the youth, the generation of tomorrow.
Excerpts from an article in the Palestinian Authority daily Al-Ayyam, May 3, 2002, reprinted May 6, 2002, as Special Dispatch No. 376 at The Middle East Media Research Institute.