Bringing the War Home: Paris Carnage as Islamic State’s 9/11
*Source: AFP / Georges Gobet ©
Bringing the War Home:
Paris Carnage as Islamic State’s 9/11
The terrorist attacks between 7th and 9th of January 2015 in Paris region (Île-de-France), including the Charlie Hebdo massacre that killed a total of 15 people seem to be the last cooperation between Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). The Paris bombings on 13 November 2015, however, was a declaration of ISIS’s own ‘maturity’ to the entire world, and replaced 9/11 in our daily memory and that ISIS has already taken al-Qaeda’s place in political discourses and policies. The facts, such as, income inequality that leads social and economic injustice, not having equal housing or educational opportunities, high unemployment rates which were constantly expressed by the politicians and the media are definitely not enough to explain how men and women born in Europe were convinced, radicalised, and explode themselves in France. What cause the total vanishing of the expectations while living in a European city, which would be full of opportunities when compared to the country that they chose to go and fight? Why educated women reject what they view as ‘western freedom’ and participate to an organisation that enslave and systemically rape women?
When the twin suicide bombings killed 128 people in Turkey’s capital Ankara on 10 October 2015, three weeks before the November Legislative Elections. Neither I nor anyone else could imagine that this traumatising experience will be followed up by an epidemic of suicide attacks that will push the world into insecurity and deep anxiety from terrorism. A month after Ankara bombings, two suicide bombers on motorcycles killed at least 43 people and wounded more than 200 others in a predominantly Shia area of southern Beirut. Then came the 3 November 2015 attack on Paris when eight suicide bombers detonated their bombs; resulting in 130 people killed and another 352 injured. Unfortunately, this terrifyingly list continues to grows larger each month after the Paris attacks.
On 21st November in Cameroon, three female attackers and one man blew themselves up, and then in Tunisia a suicide bomber wearing a vest packed with plastic explosive blew up a presidential guard bus. Followed by the 5th of December attacks in Chad, where after a triple suicide bombing by three female bombers at least 27 people were killed. In 2015 alone, over 3,500 people have been killed in this area by terrorism. Lastly on 12th of January 2016 in Istanbul in historic Sultanahmet district an Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) blamed suicide bomb attack left 10 people died another 15 wounded, many of them German tourists. As a result of these attacks; especially the Paris attacks, this paper will analyse the Paris bombings and suggest that they were a declaration by the ISIS of its ‘maturity’ to the entire world.
The terrorist attacks on 13 November 2015 in Paris replaced 9/11 in societies’ daily memory, and it goes without saying that ISIS has taken al-Qaeda’s place in political discourses and policies. However, it is not very clear that if the jihadists of self-proclaimed ISIS in Europe have a roadmap or grand strategy that they are following, but they are ‘somehow’ trained and very well motivated to realise any act which is expected from them.
In France, between the 7th and 9th of January 2015, there were series of five terrorist attacks that occurred in Paris region (Île-de-France), which killed a total of 15 people. These events need to be considered to comprehend the motivation behind the November bombings. The attacks on the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo killed 12 people with dozen more were. The assailants were tracked by the police and later identified as Chérif and Saïd Kouachi, who were both killed a police. While the third assailant in Charlie Hebdo attack, Amedy Coulibaly, who was also with Chérif Kouachi while in jail, shot a police officer and a 32-year-old jogging man in Fontenay-aux-Rose. Coulibaly then took hostages at a kosher supermarket near the Port-de-Saint-Vincennes and killed another four people.
While Kouachi brothers identified themselves as belonging to the Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) –also known as Al-Qaeda’s branch in Yemen– Amedy Coulibaly pledged allegiances to the ISIS. Coulibaly and the Kouachi brothers were also members of the Buttes-Chaumont network, which is named after a park in northeast Paris (19th district) where they were physically trained and held meetings. These attacks (between 7th and 9th of January 2015) seem to be the last cooperation in which Al-Qaeda and ISIS acted together.
Nonetheless, it is useful to keep in mind that ISIS’s militate in European cities, some attacks have not been successful. For instance that of Sid Ahmed Ghlam who is suspecte of an attack on a church in Villejuif (southern Paris), but failed and shot his own foot, or that of Ayoub el-Khazzani who boarded on Thalys train with a Kalashnikov rifle, but was subdued by two off-duty American soldier, or recently the failed attempt at the Stade de France, in which the explosive vest failed to go off. Holding a territory and coordinating of operation across large areas in Iraq after melting away of Iraqi Army does not made self-proclaimed IS militarily powerful in the same way as Europe. On the contrary they ‘balance’ out their numerous failed acts with big sensational terrorist attacks such as Paris carnage.
From Vulnerable Hierarchical Organisation into a Resilient Decentralised Movement
Known by his nom de guerre Abou Moussab al-Suri (his real name is Moustapha Sitt Mariam Nassar) an engineer from Syria, is known as the theorist of global or “new jihad.” He is also a strategic thinker for al-Qaida (al-Qaida’s second most wanted man by U.S. intelligence) and a critic of Osama Ben Laden tactics and organisation. Abou Moussab al-Suri supports the idea of “having a system not organisation” (Gilles Kepel, 2015). In his 1,604-page book, “Call to Global Islamic Resistance” referred as a handbook of jihadists which can be downloaded as a PDF document from radical jihadist websites, calls for ‘jihadist to be’ to self-recruit and act independently. al-Suri with the aim of transforming al-Qaida from a “vulnerable hierarchical organisation into a resilient decentralised movement” not only inspired the London bombings of July 7, 2005 but also Paris bombings on 13th November 2015.
Different from Al-Qaida and Ben Laden that primarily targeted USA, al-Suri, considers Europe as Achilles heel of the West, and should be the main target of the new jihad. On the background of this strategy the pre-acceptance of impossibility of the migrants’ integration to the Europe is located as a main argument. Economic and social related injustice, the islamaphobia, being the victim of discrimination and the fear regarding the future is main concern that aids al-Suri and his organisation to construct jihadist strategy and persuades the potential recruits. Distrust, loss of the sense of belonging and the hostile intentions of the ‘Crusader than the coloniser West’ reconstruct the ground of the radicalising and mobilisation appeal.
Humiliation as a Missing Link in the Search for Root Causes of Violent Conflict
The facts suggest that there are several root causes of violent conflict, such as income inequality that leads social and economic injustice, not having equal housing or educational opportunities, or high unemployment rates which were constantly expressed by the politicians and the media are definitely not enough to explain how men and women born in Europe were convinced, radicalised, and explode themselves in France. What cause the total vanishing of the expectations while living in a European city, which would be full of opportunities when compared to the country that they chose to go and fight? Why educated women reject what they view as ‘western freedom’ and participate to an organisation that enslave and systemically rape women?
Given the fact that France among western countries supplies the largest numbers of ISIS female recruits, which ‘liberation’ may the ISIS offer to such women who have to leave their religious identity to be an equal citizen in the public space? As Michel Wieviorka states, to explain is not to justify therefore, it has to be deeply analysed how the contemporary debates about the compatibility of Islamic values with secular modernity affects women who are expelled from the schools or opera because of wearing headscarf. A female jihadist who was tweeting under the name Umm Layth before her account was deactivated explains that in territory under the control of the ISIS, Muslim women are not mocked for wearing Islamic clothing and instead receive nothing but “respect and honour.”
While scholars investigate the linkage between humiliation and conflict came to the idea that humiliation “may be the missing link in the search for root causes of political instability and violent conflict” (Hartling, Lindner , Spalthoff, & Britton, 2013). Social scientist Evelin Lindner (2006) describes humiliation as “the strongest force that creates rifts between people and breaks down relationships” (p. 171). For many this condition of humiliation may lead to silence but for some, they translate into a justification for escalating aggression or violence (Hartling, Lindner, Spalthoff, & Britton, 2013).
“Terrorism is a Social Fact rather than a Brute Fact”
Even it was commonly argued that terrorism was a product of psychological illness, poverty, religion or brainwashing rather than political dynamics, it is definitely a systemic problem that requires taking in consideration these factors; coupled with security and intelligence deficiency. Scholars who are working within critical terrorism studies approaches point out that history, context and socio-political variables are significant in terrorism research (Gunning, 2007; Jackson, 2007; Smyth, 2007). According to Jackson (2008, p. 28), “terrorism is a social fact rather than a brute fact,” and it is created and re-created by the “social and political discourse.”
The state of emergency declared after Paris attacks which has large public support does not only concern the terrorists, but also the citizens who want to enjoy every single right they are entitled to, such as right to freedom of speech, freedom of movement, etc. As a consequence, the counter-terrorism policies and laws implemented after 9/11 impacted profoundly the relation of Muslim communities with the police and the state. The security precautions often used to justify targeting ‘suspect communities.’ Therefore, contextual analysis of the dynamics between the state and individuals are significant.
Scholars around the world working on humiliation studies want to take our attention to the relation between terrorism and humiliation. Jessica Stern (2004), a lecturer at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, who interviewed jihadists for a long time mostly heard the same answers from all of the interviewees that how they perceived humiliation, relative deprivation and fear –whether personal, cultural or both. Stern describes the relation between humiliation and terrorism as: “although the terrorists have described a variety of individual grievances, there was one common thread: their overwhelming feelings of humiliation.”
Stern (2004) exemplifies how feeling of humiliated serves as a background to some by stating Sheik Omar Bakri Mohammed, leader of the London-based radical Islamist movement Al Muhajiroun, which openly supports Al Qaeda, asks potential followers:
When will people see this war in Iraq and Afghanistan for what it really is a Christian crusade, full of the indiscriminate murder, rape and carnage just like, if not worse than, the Christian Crusades of Richard the Lionheart and his own band of thugs in the past. Surely this is a wake-up call for all Muslims around the world who have any dignity left.
The young men and women who feel humiliated and deprived are being offered to be a part of jihad where they would feel “honoured and respected.” To focus not only security precautions supported by state of emergency and intelligence, but also on sustainable solutions to understand the roots that jihadist ideology fed needs to be prioritised. The starting point may be revising of the anti-terrorism laws and policies implemented after 9/11, which are unlikely to stop the spreading of jihadist movements inspired by al-Qaida, and to further integrate and not marginalisation the Muslim community or treat them as a suspect community.
Ebru Sungun Öztürk, PhD Candidate at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS), Paris
Please cite this publication as follows:
Öztürk, E. (January, 2016), “Bringing the War Home: Paris Carnage as Islamic State’s 9/11” Vol. V, Issue 1, pp.30-37, Centre for Policy and Research on Turkey (Research Turkey), London, Research Turkey (http://researchturkey.org/?p=10429)
 “Between 1967 and 1972 Martha Rosler created “Bringing the War Home,” a series of collages that integrate photojournalistic images of the Vietnam war into photographs of idealised domestic interiors, clipped from popular magazines… Nearly 40 years later, in 2004, Rosler was struck by similarities between the war in Vietnam and the developing war in Iraq. Returning to the method of handcrafted collage –followed now by a scanning and printing process– she reprised the Bringing the War Home series, combining images from Iraq with contemporary interiors.” [Accessed Date on 15th December 2015], Available at:
 P. Cruickshank and M. Ali, “Abu Musab Al Suri: Architect of the New Al Qaeda,” Studies in Conflict & Terrorism 30 (2007):1-14, [Accessed Date on 15th December 2015], Available at: http://www.lawandsecurity.org/documents/AbuMusabalSuriArchitectoftheNewAlQaeda.pdf.
 A female spectator was told to leave the Paris Opera during a performance La Traviata after singers spotted her wearing a niqab (20 October 2014), [Accessed Date on 15th December 2015], Available at:
 Hartling, L. M., Lindner, E., Spalthoff, U., & Britton, M. (2013). Humiliation: A nuclear bomb of emotions? Promolibro.
 Lindner, E. (2006). Making enemies: Humiliation and international conflict. Westport, CT: Praeger Security International.
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 Stern, J. (2004). Militant groups: Beneath bombast and bombs, a cauldron of humiliation. http://belfercenter.hks.harvard.edu/publication/1348/militant_groups.html