Sunday 23.10.2011
Once a hero, today a terrorist
I heard the true story of a man who was tired of oppression by foreign occupation. He decided 
to do something. He walked to the headquarters of the oppressor, and when he saw the General of
the army he pulled out his gun and shot him dead. Right after that he shot himself. The suicide
attack was seen as a heroic act by the man’s friends and fellow citizens. His pictures were
defiantly glued all around the city the same night and people partied openly.

When I was in grade school in the 1990s, I was taught that this suicide attacker, Eugen
Schauman, a Finnish nationalist who in June 1904 shot the General Governor Bobrikov of the
Russian Army in Helsinki, was a national hero. It was painted as a patriotic act that the whole
of Finland would understand, and it was not considered terrorism, but a desperate and symbolic
act by a freedom fighter against a big, oppressive foreign army.

Times have changed. Finland’s first "terrorist suspects" were arrested for sending money to a
Somali militia, the Finnish Border Guard is recruiting people to be trained in specialist anti-
terrorism squads, and today there was an absurd article in Helsingin Sanomat which basically
said how easily unemployed immigrants could be brainwashed into terrorism.

Yet thanks to the Finnish school system I feel the same sympathy for Eugen Schauman as I do for
the Afghan suicide attacker who tries to send a message to the foreign superpower’s armed
forces. In his groundbreaking study Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism
(2005), Robert A. Pape argues that far from being an irrational strategy pursued by religious
fanatics, suicide terrorism is employed by weak actors to coerce foreign occupiers from what
they consider to be their national homeland. Our Finnish nationalist Schauman was a true
brother in arms to the Hizballah nationalist, Tamil Tiger or the Sunni patriot in Iraq.
Tellingly, prior to the U.S. invasion in March 2003, there had never been a suicide attack in
Iraq.


FacebookTwitterGoogle+PinterestShare