In February of this year, Amnesty International and Open Society Foundation published their Human Rights Guide for Researching Racial and Religious Discrimination in Counter-Terrorism in Europe. The guide, aimed at those working in the human rights and anti-discrimination fields, encourages its readers to "speak back to counter-terrorism", challenging the normalisation and acceleration of excessive and misdirected counterterrorism programmes.
In the forward, Tendayi Achiume and Fionnuala Ní Aoláin explain that "countering terrorism, which remains undefined, has been on a growth trajectory in Europe with no end in sight" whilst, at the same time, "the costs of securitization and counter-terrorism have had identifiable and disparate impacts on certain historically and socially marginalized groups perceived as ‘threats’ to national security". The guide offers a toolkit for applying anti-discrimination law to the counter-terrorism field, with the goal of protecting those subject to unjustified and illegal treatment under the guise of combatting terrorism.
The 20th anniversary of 9/11 provides an important contextualization for this publication. Alongside paying tribute to the thousands who tragically died in these attacks, we must reflect upon the ways that responses to this event have negatively impacted racialised communities (and Terrorism Studies as a discipline) over the past two decades. As the world celebrates Black History Month throughout October, it would be disingenuous and downright dangerous to dismiss the continued violence and discrimination experienced by marginalised individuals and communities in the name of (inter)national security. In this vein, recognising how the language of terrorism was used by politicians and security services to stoke fear and discredit the Black Lives Matter movement once again reveals the racist political work (for more, see our paper spotlight below), and the violent and long-lasting repercussions, of (counter)terror discourse.
This left me questioning: what is, or what should be considered, (counter)terrorism? How can counterterrorism be used productively to promote safer, more peaceful societies? If 2020 was the year of (supposed) racial reckoning, then 2021 was the year those in power faced up to their compliance in misogynistic violence. Catalysed in the UK by the abduction, rape, and murder of Sarah Everard, we seem to be experiencing a 'turning point' in the way violence against women is understood and responded to. However, and despite the outpouring of support and evidence to justify the move, the UK government has refused to label misogynistic violence a hate crime (scroll for more on this). Activism and scholarship on 'extreme misogyny', 'incel terrorism', 'misogynist terrorism', 'gender terrorism', and 'everyday terrorism' gives us the language to call out this refusal as just another example of 'state failure'. How, then, can we reframe counterterrorism to protect us all?
See the full newsletter here: Counterterrorism
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