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Every Armed Group Should Be Considered a Terrorist Group
Tribesmen loyal to the Houthis raise their guns as they chant slogans during an armed tribal gathering on July 8, 2020 on the outskirts of Sana'a, Yemen. (Mohammed Hamoud/Getty Images)

Every Armed Group Should Be Considered a Terrorist Group

Al-Etihad, UAE, January 14

Over the course of the past few weeks, the US State Department designated the Houthi militias as a terrorist organization, adding the group to a notorious list that also includes al-Qaida, the Nusra Front, Hizbullah, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, the Abu Nidal Organization, the Abu Sayyaf group, and others. In the European Union and Great Britain, some of these organizations also have been designated as terrorist entities, while others have not yet made it on the list due to a different interpretation of the definition of “terrorism” by European states. The fact that these Western states cannot even agree on which entities should be included on the terrorism watchlist is concerning. The common factor among all the names mentioned above is that they are armed groups that have chosen violence as a way to impose their political and social will and to extend their influence. In a new world dominated by new rules – where social media provides a platform for anyone to reach a widespread audience and where nonstate actors enjoy more power than ever before – it is more appropriate than ever before to consider adopting a universal definition for terrorism. This agreement should be binding and simple and include any group or faction that uses arms to promote its goals under the definition. All armed organizations, without exception, had historically disastrous and tragic experiences – including those who acted under the so-called banner of “patriotism.” They all played with fire and ended up igniting their respective regions. Consider a few examples. The first Palestinian Intifada of 1987 was a popular uprising of oppressed people who were subjected to a harsh military occupation. The images of the Palestinian kid throwing stones at Israeli tanks managed to generate empathy and support for the Palestinian cause all over the world. Yet this peaceful revolution turned increasingly violent and led to the ultimate emergence of the movement we know today as Hamas. It contributed to the circulation of weapons that led to murder and terror – not only against the Israelis but also against the Palestinians themselves. Another example is Somalia. Many of us remember the late Siad Barre, who was president of the Somali Democratic Republic from 1969 to 1991. Barre was a dictator who ruled his country with cruelty and tyranny. The uprising against Barre, carried out by armed groups led by warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid, managed to remove the president from power. However, it soon sent the country into chaos, leading to local guerrilla wars that tore the country down. In Cambodia, in Vietnam, and in every other place where armed organizations carried weapons, one will notice a slippery slope that begins with picking up arms and taking political action. Therefore, it would be wise for global powers to sit around a table and agree on a common definition for “terrorism,” which would allow them to place the same organizations on their respective terror watchlists. Only then can decisive action be taken against these criminals. – Malik Al-Athamna (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb) 

 

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Felice Friedson
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