Indirect Victims of Terrorism

Indirect Victims of Terrorism

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Following the largest terrorist attack on US on September 11, 2001, the nation has changed forever. The number of victims was tremendous: thousands have died or went missing. However, these innocent people who died as a result of the act are direct victims. Many forget that are still tens of thousands who knew someone who was killed or heard about the attack. These people are indirect victims because they also suffered even though not physically but mentally. In addition, even terrorists themselves are also victims: some of their religious believes, some of the strong commitment to the orders of their leaders.

Terrorist violence affects people at all levels of involvement. Bereaved family members, rescue workers, friends, volunteers and witnesses are all indirect victims. Thousands were killed in the attack of September 11, 2002, 259 were killed on the plane and 11 on the ground during the bombing of Pan-Am Flight in 1988, 168 victims were killed at the Oklahoma City attack in 1995. However, it is impossible to calculate the number of indirect victims, but, for sure, it exceeds number of direct victims many times.

Terrorism destroys the sense of security and safety which are usual feelings for people not only on the individual level but also at the community level. People need to seeing world as predictable and controllable environment and terrorism challenges this natural need. Family members of the direct victims suffer the most and perceive the world as unstable place to live. The emotional problems are so big that many are even afraid to go outside because of fear to face terrorism in the neighborhood.

Many studies have proved that violence creates long lasting mental and health effect, even greater than natural accidents. Indirect victims feel that what happened to others is injustice. The consequences are anger, feeling of helplessness, fear and sometimes a desire for revenge. If the terrorist attack is on national level, then survivors start to develop some kind of stereotyping and discrimination to the nation whose citizens participated in this attack. Racial profiling in the airports today of the travelers of Asian origin is a vivid example of the fear of people to be attacked again.

The most wide-spread stress of the indirect victims is Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

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Family members, rineds and rescue workers are the most open to it. It happens that rescue workers have direct relationship with those who are killed or missing. It is twice harder to them because they must cope with their own feelings and demands of the rescue mission. For example, in the case with September 11, it was extremely difficult for them to identify and remove the casualties.

Fortunately, there have been very few terrorist attacks in the United States. However, very little attention has been paid to the indirect victims and how they are affected by terrorism. For example, over a year after Oklahoma bombing it was reported that rate of alcohol use, stress and smocking was continuously increasing as compared to the citizens of other metropolitan cities. In addition, about half of survivors who were directly exposed to the blast (both direct and indirect victims) reported having problems with depression, anxiety and PTSD. These people cannot have normal life as they had before, some cannot continue working. Thus effects are not only mental, but also social.

Moreover, following the crash of Pan-Am flight 103 almost 3/4th of people reported having PTSD and more than half of them continued to have it even after three years after the crash. Anxiety, nightmares, depression and fear of subways is a common experience of those who were exposed to poisonous gas in the Subway Attack in Japan. What is the most important is that stress of indirect victims is long-lasting and hard to cure.

From the other hand, even though who were killed in the result of terrorist attack are also indirect victims because they were innocent. Usually terrorist do not have a a specific criteria for choosing the group for attack. They want to say something to the higher authority or just to get noticed. It is hard to determine the original intend of them in any case.

Nevertheless, terrorists themselves are also indirect victims of their own acts. In many cases they die in the result of terroristic act they participate in. They are victim of their religious believes which dictate to act in one way or another. They are victims of their leaders who are idealized and personally do not participate just plan the act. Terrorists who perform the task become a tool, not an individual. Usually they have mental disorders and do not relaize what they do at all.

Yasser Arafat, Marwan Barghouti, Menachem Begin, Theodore Kaczynski, Osama bin Laden, Ilich Ramirez Sanches are the world most famous terrorists. They are also indirect victims and it is possible to say that their lives are almost ended. They became victims of their own plans and actions, even though there is nobody to blame except for themselves. Each of them had power, mind and influence to become a good leader for a large group of people. However, they have chosen to harm others.

Terrorism is extremely difficult to control or prevent especially if its practitioners are willing to risk death. It happens that the whole country can become the indirect victim of the terroism. For example, Iraq, Yemen, Libya and even United States were accused of promoting and protecting terrorist groups because of the support of Taliban regime in Afghanistan. It is impossible to discuss all indirect victims of the terrorist action because every single person who has at least heard about the attack becomes an indirect victim.

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