Camelia Entekhabifard
Editor-in-chief of the Independent Persian.

22 Years after 9/11, What Does Terrorism Mean?

On Monday, September 11, 2023, The American nation and the world marked the 22nd anniversary of the largest terrorist attack in modern history, remembering the more than 3,000 people who lost their lives that day.

As we remember victims of the terror attacks on September 11, 2001, it is an opportunity to see how these attacks affected many other major events in the world and the approach of politicians to the phenomenon of terrorism and ways of countering it.

Faced with the terrorist catastrophe in New York City and killing of thousands of people, the US government sent troops to Afghanistan to fight terrorism and the Al-Qaeda terror group.

A global coalition was formed to counter the threat of terrorist attacks and thousands of American and international soldiers were maimed and killed in Afghanistan on this path.

Today, after 22 years, it is a good time to ask: What is the definition of terrorism and what definition is the West offering to the world? Let’s have a look at terror groups who, 22 years ago, threatened the security and lives of people of the world, and go over their situation and that of international terrorism.

Following the attack on Afghanistan, staged in 2001 with the purpose of countering Al-Qaeda terrorists, Iraq and Syria also became involved.

Afghan Taliban were the source of Al-Qaeda-aligned terror groups. Following the attack by the US and its international coalition, some of them fled to Pakistani territory or the border areas between the two countries. The foreign terrorists based in Afghanistan were able to leave and in some countries, this act by the US and its allies was seen as a Western attack on a Muslim country and led to new provocations in the region.

Following Afghanistan, the US went to Iraq. The attacks aimed at ousting Saddam Hussein created another war in the country. Ethnic, tribal and military conflicts over stabilizing the situation led to the emergence of extremist Islamic groups, out of which ISIS was born.

The war spread to Syria and the greatest crimes against humanity happened in areas under this group’s occupation, especially those where Yazidi Kurds hailed from. Who among us has forgotten images of Yazidi girls and daughters being sold off in ISIS slave markets?

The massacre of thousands of young Yazidi men, teens and boys might not be on the scale of 9/11 terror attacks in New York, but it was unprecedented in its own way, in the number of killed and the kind of brutality used to murder the detainees.

Al-Qaeda-affiliated groups next showed up in Africa and Philippines. From the criminal and terrorist group Boko Haram in Nigeria to the Filipino Abu Sayyaf group in East Asia, many groups were formed following the US War on Terror.

Advanced countries in the world had come out to fight and eradicate terror. Behind them were international organizations, such as the United Nations. A global consensus was being forged to uproot terrorists who threatened global security.

What was the role of the UN as an international organization in creating security, calm and welfare for nations of the world and how did its officials define the phenomenon of terrorism? Have the UN and other international organizations been effective? Have they been able to realize the demands of nations in bringing about justice?

I started this discussion to get to a question: On the 22nd anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Center, which augured a new era in the way governments and nations approach international relations, have they achieved this important deed?

Where are the terror groups of yesterday and what was their fate? What is the exact definition of terrorism for a group and what measure do we have?

In reality, we see these definitions are changeable and they change based on shifting policies of states.

Based on international law and logical definitions, suicide, explosion, threatening and intimidating citizens can be defined as terrorism (there are also other definitions for terrorists.) But how can it be that one US president (Donald Trump) designated the Houthis as terrorists but the next (Joe Biden) removed the designation?

How can it be that Afghan terrorists linked to Al-Qaeda, those who are being pursued by the FBI (including Mula Ghani Baradar, Serajjedin Haqqani, Khalil Haqani), or are on the UN blacklist be now part of the Afghan government?

How can the UN accept to send bags of money to Kabul to be collected by people who are on its own terror watch list and to a government run by those very terrorists?

After 22 years, are there new definitions of terrorism we are not familiar with?

After 22 years of war on terror, what was the fate of Al-Qaeda, Boko Haram and ISIS? Have they been destroyed or do they, just like Taliban, now fit new definitions?

Have the Western governments made a mockery of human understanding of events? Are terror groups a weapon that big countries can use to pursue their interests in so-called Third World countries?

A change of policies on terror groups means that in 2022, Pakistan saw 520 terror operations very similar to the terror attacks of Taliban in Afghanistan.

Unfortunately, a variety of events and illogical and partial positions taken by the UN has questioned this body’s validity and credibility.

The exact amount spent on counterterrorism by the US following 9/11 is not clear. But one credible US website puts the number, only between 2017 to 2022, at more than 2.8 trillion dollars.

This massive sum was paid by American taxpayers and after 22 years of war against terror groups, it has resulted in Taliban’s return to power and more than half a million Afghans being stranded around the world.

We bow our heads to humans who gave their precious lives for freedom and security of others.

The latest victims of 9/11 were 13 honorable US soldiers who were killed in the Kabul airport in August 2021 – 21 after the fight against terrorism began. They were evacuating terrorized people who were in panic, leaving an Afghanistan that Biden had given to Taliban.

These soldiers did their utmost to help desperate people who were running away from terrorism and lost their lives right then and there.

Politics is open to change and moderation, but death and terror don’t change.

On such anniversaries, more than ever, we see a need for creating new bodies that could replace the current international fora.