Addressing terrorism as an internal or trans-border existential phenomenon and condition, and not an accident, which has taken many shapes and forms such as groups, organized crime or ideologies, is the gateway to studying it and its multiple dimensions, and understanding its impact on human rights and the survival of societies. The definition of terrorism is the practice of violence to produce fear with political goals, to inflict damage and harm on individuals and coerce societies and government. This is a clear violation of basic human rights, the many generations of human rights, and the rule of law.
The right to life is a supreme human right and falls on the state to protect and uphold it. The universal concept of the declaration of human rights is based on partnership between state and individual in applying these rights. The Egyptian state relies on this in its fight against terrorism, through a comprehensive approach to human rights. Combating terrorism is a human right, as Egyptian President Abdel-Fatah Al-Sisi said in his opening address to the first World Youth Forum in 2017.
Fighting terrorism requires upholding human rights and making them a priority; the two notions are not contradictory. Combating terrorism is rooted in human rights which is the starting point to move forward on this path. Any terrorist attack is a clear violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the two international covenants on political, civil, economic, social and cultural rights, and all international conventions regarding basic rights, and the right to life, freedom, physical safety and personal security.
According to Article 3 of the universal declaration, terrorism aims to destroy human rights, democracy and rule of law. It is an assault on respect for human rights, rule of law, rules regulating armed conflicts, protection of civilians and tolerance among people and countries, and peacefully resolving conflicts. This is because it is strongly linked to organized crime, the drug trade, money laundering, illegal trade, murder, blackmail, kidnapping, attacks and hostage taking, and theft. The aim of terrorism attacks is to destabilize governments and countries, and undermine civil society, destabilize security, peace, and socio-economic development.
The UN has often cited the catastrophic impact of terrorism on human rights and security, with reference to Security Council Resolution 2396 on 21 December 2017.
There is an analytical gap in international literature on the impact of terrorism on human rights with regards the political and social impact of terrorism on values. This paper aims to focus on the impact of terrorism on human rights from the perspective of political values upon which societies are built, such as the values of co-existence, tolerance, accepting the Other, family and its components. For example, after church bombings we find that as well as direct victims of the attack, a political consequence emerges which is a division between Muslims and Christians in Egypt, even though the attack touched both Muslims and Christians equally. Accordingly, a terrorist attack results in a sociopolitical impact that destroys the value of co-existence between the two religions, politicizes religion and makes it a thorny political issue in society.
Another example, is the murder of worshipers at Al-Rawda Mosque at Deir Al-Abd village in Arish. According to investigations, the cause of this massacre was the fact that the mosque and its patrons were Sufis. This politicizes Sufism in Egypt and removes its spiritual cloak to make it a political issue, and stomps on the concept of accepting the other and tolerance.
Discussing the impact of terrorism on education, one report noted that the deterioration of the education sector in Yemen is a serious threat to youth and family, and thus extends the ongoing conflict. This is apparent in the low rates of college registration in areas under Houthi control, which raises concerns that Yemeni students are now more focused on joining armed groups out of despair and in the absence of alternatives. These groups provide youth with a sense of belonging and a means to earn a living through financial promises to many students. The collapse of the education sector in areas under Houthi control, which is the majority of the Yemeni population, only serves the interests of the armed groups and extremist organizations in the country.
With regards to family, terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka and Indonesia raised awareness about the fact that terrorism is usually a family affair, according to the website American Enterprise. The family is a contributing or preventive factor in the spread of extremism and recruiting its members. The disintegration of the family unit and weak family ties make youth more vulnerable to recruitment. A report by American Enterprise stated that researchers in South Philippines found that family and social networks are a key factor in the radicalization of youth and their membership of armed groups, without any specific grievances or socioeconomic factors.
In Mali, one or both parents of some youth in armed groups were members of violent radical groups, and parents are factors in directly recruiting their children in terrorist operations, such as in Surabaya, Indonesia. The strategy of Islamic State was to target the family and recruit new members, both women or children, estimated at 10,000 children under the age of 15 in camps in Iraq.
This disintegration of the family unit and social values relates to the rights of upcoming generations and their way of life, because their cultural rights are denied in conflict zones because a single ideology is enforced and it does not tolerate the Other.
Terrorism is a threat to human rights because it targets the fabric of society, the values and beliefs it is built on. Thus, the following recommendations:
1- More research on societal and moral dimensions when analyzing human rights conditions.
2- Implementing policies that protect the family unit and societal cohesion since they are the key components of any society, and the barrier preventing recruitment, manipulation of family disintegration, and ugly extremist ideology.
3- Partnership between all state agencies and civil society to embed the main values of state and society, and the relationship between the two.
4- Rejuvenating religious discourse based on dialogue between the past and present, and cooperation of all state agencies, NGOs and religious institutions. Also, launching a broad dialogue to devise the values and rituals of religion to achieve its goals, in light of societal factors and climate in order to prevent erroneous religious and social understandings.
5- Confirmation that fighting terrorism is a human right.
This article was first published in: Egyptian Center for Strategic Studies, Human Rights: The Trajectory to Combat Terrorism, Special edition, Cairo, November 2019.