Terrorism is a major buzzword in today’s society, but how much do you really know about it? In this lesson, we’ll look at the history of terrorism and see how it turned into the threat we know it as today.
What is Terrorism?
If there’s one word that future historians will be unable to avoid when talking about the early twenty-first century, it’s terrorism (also memes, but let’s focus on the serious issues here).
Terrorism is the use of extreme public violence to intimidate and cause terror, in the goal of achieving a political aim. Basically, terrorists attempt to create political and social change by threatening the welfare of their opponents. In general, this isn’t a clearly issued threat like two nations declaring war but through unprovoked acts. Live in fear – that’s the basic message of terrorism. But, where did this ideology come from and how did it become such a big part of our world? To understand that, we need to look back further in history than you might suspect.
The Latin verb terrere means: to frighten. The English word ‘terror’, just like the French terreur, derives from that Latin word and means from of old: fright, alarm, anguish, (mortal) fear, panic.
The World Map of Terror
Let’s look back at the worst terror attacks in Europe this year.
Spanish terror attacks: Thursday August 17 2017 – A terrorist ploughed a van into crowds, killing 13 people and injuring more than a hundred, in Barcelona’s
Finsbury Park terror attack: Just after midnight on June 19 2017 – A van driver mowed down Muslim worshipers on Seven Sisters Road near Finsbury Park mosque in the very early hours of June 19.
London Bridge terror attack: June 3 2017 – The London terror attack killed eight people and injured many others on London Bridge and in nearby Borough Market on Saturday June 3.
Manchester terror attack: May 22 2017 – The Manchester terror attack killed at least 22 people and injured 59 others at an Ariana Grande concert at Manchester Arena on Monday May 22.
Paris shooting: April 20 2017 – A policeman was killed on the Champs Elysees in Paris in what is being treated as a terror-related attack.
Stockholm attack: April 7 2017 – Four people were killed and at least fifteen were injured when a man drove a truck down a busy shopping street.
Westminster attack: March 22 2017 – London attacker Khalid Masood mowed down pedestrians on Westminster Bridge, killing two men and two women and injuring many others.
Louvre knife attack: February 3 2017 – A knifeman was shot while trying to attack a group of soldiers guarding the Louvre in Paris on February 3.
Most of the attacks were claimed by ISIS.
How to avoid the situation?
There are understandable concerns about traveling abroad due to the various international tensions and security alerts but provided you are fully prepared and informed, the odds are still very high that you will have a safe and incident-free trip.
There is unfortunately always the potential prospect of tourists becoming victims of crime and violence generally, or experiencing unexpected and unforeseen difficulties.
You should always remember that there are consular officers who work in more in embassies around the globe and they are there to offer assistance to the citizens of their country who are in distress and need to call upon the help of someone who is used to receiving such calls on a daily basis.
The vast majority of issues can often be resolved over the phone if you get into difficulties while traveling abroad and might even end up in hospital, prison or any other relevant scenario where you need some assistance.
It is worth remembering that this help exists in most corners of the world if you need assistance, but there are also plenty of ways you can prepare for your trip so that your odds improve of having a pleasant and safe trip abroad without incident.
What should you do before you leave:
Safety begins from the moment you start to pack. In order to avoid becoming a potential target, consider your choice of clothing and aim to avoid dressing in a way that could mark you out as an affluent tourist. Wearing expensive-looking jewelry, for example, can soon draw the wrong attention.
Always aim to travel light. This will not just help you to move around more quickly but it will also help at security check-in’s and also reduce the risk of you losing some possessions, by leaving them unattended.
You should carry the minimum number of valuables possible and plan places to conceal them.
Your passport, cash and credit cards are normally most secure when locked in a hotel safe, so try to take a daily amount with you each day and keep the rest of your cash and valuables locked up. Invest in a secure bag or pouch that allows you to keep your money out of reach.
When passing through customs, keep medicines in their original, labeled containers and bring copies of your prescriptions and the generic names for the drugs. If a medication is unusual or contains narcotics, carry a letter from your doctor confirming your need to take the drug. If you have any doubt about the legality of carrying a certain drug into a country, consult the embassy or consulate of that country before you travel.
Do a bit of research
It is always worth doing a bit of research on the country you are visiting before you go. As well as searching out places of interest to visit, it is worth checking out any fundamental differences in local laws and cultures, in comparison to what you are used to.
Having a basic level of understanding of these customs and laws can help avoid a potential problem in the first place.
Check out what existing insurance cover you have and whether your personal property insurance covers you for loss or theft abroad. Also, check on whether your health insurance covers you abroad.
It is always advisable to take out specific travel insurance that provides you with a level of protection and compensation if you suffer a loss of possessions or have a health problem while abroad.
It is understandable that you will want to explore while on your holiday but do aim to take sensible precautions when traveling in unfamiliar surroundings and locations.
Avoid short-cuts or poorly lit streets and always be vigilant with your personal possessions, as pickpockets are found in many well-known tourist areas.
Use the same common sense traveling overseas that you would at home. Be especially cautious in (or avoid) areas where you may be more easily victimized. These include crowded subways, train stations, elevators, tourist sites, market places, festivals and crime-ridden neighborhoods.
If you are confronted by an attacker, it is always better to avoid a fight and give up your valuables rather than risk more serious consequences.
When you research the country you are visiting, you are more than likely to find specific security advice regarding known methods of targeting tourists and how to avoid becoming a potential victim.
If you take a taxi, only use one with official markings and try to use public transport like trains and buses at regular times, rather than late at night. If you hire a car, you should also be aware that foreign motorists can fall victim to a number of scams and robberies, so be wary of anyone flagging you down or approaching the car
In many places frequented by tourists, including areas of southern Europe, victimization of motorists has been refined to an art. Where it is a problem, U.S. embassies are aware of it and consular officers try to work with local authorities to warn the public about the dangers. In some locations, these efforts at public awareness have paid off, reducing the frequency of incidents. You may also wish to ask your rental car agency for advice on avoiding robbery while visiting tourist destinations.
Carjackers and thieves operate at gas stations, parking lots, in city traffic and along the highway. Be suspicious of anyone who hails you or tries to get your attention when you are in or near your car.
Avoiding legal difficulties
Always remember that you are subject to the local laws of the country you are staying in and what might be considered legal or a minor infraction in your own country, could result in serious legal difficulties in another jurisdiction.
Drug violations account for a large percentage of incarcerations and even taking photographs in certain areas might not be permitted in some countries.
It is always best policy to familiarize yourself with the legal expectations of the country you are visiting, so that you can avoid not just ruining your holiday but potentially serious consequences that might follow your arrest.
Here is a useful checklist and information that will help you to improve your chances of enjoying a safe trip abroad.
United States citizens might want to consider using the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) which involves logging your travel plans so that the authorities have information about your whereabouts and can inform relatives in the event of an emergency.
The data they hold is held securely and any information on your whereabouts or welfare will only be released to others once you have authorized them to do so.
Sign passport your passport and fill in the emergency information: Make sure you have a signed, valid passport, and a visa, if required, and fill in the emergency information page of your passport.
Leave copies of itinerary and passport data page with relatives or friends: Leave copies of your itinerary, passport data page and visas with family or friends, so you can be contacted in case of an emergency.
Check that your overseas medical insurance coverage is in place: Ask your medical insurance company if your policy applies overseas, and if it covers emergency expenses such as medical evacuation. If it does not, consider supplemental insurance.
Familiarize yourself with local conditions and laws: While in a foreign country, you are subject to its laws.
Take precautions to reduce your risk of being targeted by criminals: To avoid being a target of crime, do not wear conspicuous clothing or jewelry and avoid carrying excessive amounts of money. Also, do not leave unattended luggage in public areas and never accept packages from strangers.
Contact your Embassy in an emergency: make a note of the contact details before you go so you can get help if you need it as quickly as possible.
Familiarise yourself with any potential health risks in the country you are visiting: You can get country-specific health information from sites like Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who cover all destinations on their site.
Traveling With Disabilities: Discuss your travel plans with your doctor or physician and remember that individual countries have varying standards and attitudes regarding disabled travelers.
Consider the level of health care that will be available and whether your needs and any emergency situations are likely to cause an issue.
Terrorism: The threat of terrorism is very much on the agenda for travelers in the present climate.
The following precautions may provide some degree of protection, and can serve as practical and psychological deterrents to would-be terrorists.
– Schedule direct flights if possible, and avoid stops in high-risk airports or areas.
-Be cautious about what you discuss with strangers or what others may overhear.
-Try to minimize the time spent in the public area of an airport, which is a less protected area. Move -quickly from the check-in counter to the secured areas. Upon arrival, leave the airport as soon as possible.
-Keep an eye out for abandoned packages or briefcases, or other suspicious items. Report them to airport authorities and leave the area promptly.
-Avoid obvious terrorist targets, such as places where Westerners are known to congregate.
-Report any suspicious activity to local police, and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.
-If you are ever in a situation where somebody starts shooting, drop to the floor or get down as low as possible. Don’t move until you are sure the danger has passed.
-Check news bulletins and travel advice for known terrorist threats
International Travel Information