8 November Sunday, 2009
Looking into the hostland dimension
“On 29 June 2007 two car bombs packed with propane gas canisters, gasoline and nails meant to be detonated by cell-phones were positioned near a night club, poised for a “one-two punch” yielding mass casualties. The first unsuccessful car bomb was discovered by rescue workers and rendered safe, as was the second car bomb discovered nearby. The next day, two men drove a flaming SUV into the terminal at Glasgow’s airport.[i]”
The quoted passage is from a newspaper dated back to 2007. However there is nothing shocking in it since we are all used to reading those kind of news nowadays, especially after September 11. The men who got involved in these attacks were not the first British residents of a diaspora community who committed terrorist acts in one way or another. Among them there was an Iraqi doctor Bilal Abdullah or another Iraq- born British resident Kahlid Ahmed, and Mohammed Asha, a Jordanian-educated physician[ii]. No one would guess that they would want to get involved in such an act since they seemed to have an ideal life in a western liberal country. Nevertheless today the problem of home-grown terrorist has brought the diaspora groups to the authorities’ notice and therefore paved the way for the hostlands to consider taking strict measures about the diaspora communities and their links to terrorism.
Today almost every state has diaspora groups and almost every significant ethnic group has an external diaspora somewhere in the world[iii]. The diaspora issue is long tried to be analyzed and understood however when it comes to further understanding of their links to the terrorist activities and armed struggles back in the homeland and recently in the hostland, there is so little research and analysis at hand. As Sheffer states; “the unrelenting and more intensive involvement of diasporans in bitter conflicts and their use of violent tactics, including terrorism, have not been studied systematically and in-depth.[iv]” This problematic gained even more importance right after September 11 and London terrorist attacks, which has shown that diaspora links to terrorist activities can no longer be disregarded by the hostlands and more importantly by the international community. As Gunaratna states:
“As underground economies provide unprecedented opportunities to generate resources, terrorists and criminals in the global south seek to ideologically and operationally penetrate their migrant and diaspora communities living in the global north. Terrorist groups, managed by recruits, have established underground and aboveground infrastructures in North America, Europe, and Australasia. These networks not only develop plans, train fighters, and purchase armaments in their home countries; they also attract financing, ideological backing, and manpower through broad support mechanisms in the West.”[v]
This paper aims to contribute to the studies in this field, by focusing on the hostland dimension of the phenomenon. Firstly, a brief introduction about the “diasporas in conflict” literature will be mentioned. Secondly, the links of diaspora groups to political violence will be analyzed. Finally, there will be a focus on the hostland’s opportunity structures and current challenges in order to understand why the liberal and democratic countries in Europe are becoming a nest for political violence and terrorism.
II. THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK: DIASPORAS IN CONFLICT
The concept of ‘diaspora’ itself is a controversial issue since there is no commonly accepted definition of what a diaspora is. It is frequently defined as a group of people which identifies itself by a shared connection with an ancestral motherland other than its present country of residence and it remains a diaspora only to the extent to which a significant part of it feels this common link. Moreover, there is no doubt that diasporas are not alike and their different histories, generations of exit, their cultures and trajectories mark them out as somewhat unique.[vi] Shain and Barth make an attempt to define diaspora as “a people with a common origin who reside, more or less on a permanent basis, outside the borders of their ethnic or religious homeland.”[vii] Tötölian also combines the term diaspora within the transnational community by describing diaspora as “the exemplary communities of the transnational moment.”[viii] In the past, the term “diaspora” applied primarily to Jews, and occasionally to Greeks, Armenians and Africans. However, recently, at least thirty ethnic groups declare themselves or described by others as diaspora.[ix] Forced separation from the homeland, evolution of national sentiments over time, an idea of return, concerns about homeland’s future are just some of the various issues that are attributed to the concept of diaspora and many immigrant groups which are dispersed all around the world, one way or another fit this criteria. It does not matter whether diasporas’ concept of homeland is an actual homeland or just a symbolic attribution. In today’s world, it is evident that the diaspora members have a tendency to keep their attachments to the homeland. As Vertovec argues, “Belonging to a diaspora entails a consciousness of, or emotional attachment to, commonly claimed origins and cultural attributes associated with them.” [x] These origins and attributes may represent ethnic, religious, linguistic, regional, national, or other traits. Their empathy for economic development of the homeland, and support to the other members of their group living in other parts of the world, originate from their emotional connection. Nevertheless, due to this sentimental attachment, diasporas are gradually becoming crucial links between the migrant receiving countries and the countries of origin.
However the tricky question is whether this kind of a definition is a valid one since it approaches the issue from an essentialist perspective and accepts all immigrants who are from the same background and are dispersed all around the world as diaspora members which divests the term of being a conscious choice or of being a constructed identity. This paper, sees diasporas as constructed or imagined groups which are consist of immigrants from a common background dispersed around the world for different reasons and form transnational networks for various aims. It is impossible to mention a diaspora group as a representative of the whole community members since they are multi layered and a diaspora group might have a number of diasporas in it who dedicate themselves to sometimes overlapping or sometimes conflicting aims.
It is evident that the political weight of diaspora groups has increased for the last couple of decades. According to Demmers, the reasons for that shift in diaspora influence could be explained by those following factors:
a) The rise of a new pattern of conflict
b) The rapid rise of war refugees
c) The increased speed of communication and mobility
d) The increased production of cultural and political boundaries. [xi]
One can also add couple of further factors such as the new policies pursued by the hostlands in terms of integrating immigrants not by assimilation but by encouraging multi culturalism, and the rise of interest of the homelands in creating expatriate communities abroad rather than ignoring their existence or labeling them as traitors as in the past. As a result of those factors mentioned above, the level of diaspora involvement became an issue that requires further attention. If one adds the fact that the “idea of returning to the homeland” is about to disappear from the scene since it is observed today diaspora members are reluctant to return home even if the conflicts end and life standard gets better, it will be correct to say that “living politics long-distance” one way or another became the an easy option for these communities.
Anderson describes the diaspora as an extremist, long distance nationalist community, which pursue radical agendas taking advantage of the freedom and economic opportunities that the host land provides them.[xii] Furthermore some authors such as Skrbis add to the long distance nationalism question;
“…long-distance nationalism has two important repercussions that make it worthy of study. In terms of domestic politics, this issue boils down to nation-states now having to reckon with the non-responsible (in Anderson’s term) political participation of often unrealistic co-nationals living outside their political borders; this participation can reach toxic levels or assume corrosive forms in the modalities of money for certain political figures, nationalist propaganda, and weapons, although it can be restricted to the more benign activities of lobbying and fund-raising for humanitarian undertakings.[xiii]”
It is eminent that conflicts compel people to migrate, and paradoxically conflicts tend to migrate with people. Since in most of the cases, “leaving the country of origin” does not necessarily include “an emotional goodbye”, diaspora groups have a tendency to affiliate themselves with the politics of both homeland and the hostland, especially if there is a conflict situation at home. Therefore they keep reproducing the already existing homeland conflict dynamics in their country of residence and cause the re-localization of the disputes. It is understandable for the 1st generation immigrants to keep the memories of the past as vivid as possible, however understanding why the following generations have loyalties and sometimes marginal feelings about the homeland conflicts requires further research. The second and third generations continue this trend of re-creating this sense of belonging in the country of residence although they don’t speak the language or they have never visited that imagined homeland. These sentiments could just stay as an emotional bond or might actually grow to extremist feelings that push the diaspora members to commit acts of violence both in the homeland and the hostland.
Demmers describes the long distance interaction of the diaspora groups in the homeland conflicts, as they are engaged in a sort of “virtual conflict: they live their conflicts through the internet, email, television, and telephone without direct (physical) suffering, risks or accountability.”[xiv] It could also be argued that since diaspora groups do not live in the homeland anymore and consequently do not suffer from the absence of peace conditions, they keep their emotional attachments to the holy homeland and make the conflicts even more protracted by not sacrificing their cause on the way to a peaceful settlement. As Lyons argues, the diaspora groups are less likely to support reconciliation efforts and they are also more reluctant than the homeland policy makers to bargain about exchanging part of their homeland for some other instrumental end.[xv]
There is also another factor apart from long distance nationalism, which is currently becoming more and more crucial. It is the fact that some diaspora groups who were targeting the homeland conflicts and the actors involved in the past, are now also targeting the hostland and its institutions. In terms of usage of violence and terrorism by diasporans both in the homeland and hostland, one can argue that their main aim is not the same as the endeavor of the insurgent groups back home. Since they are not involved in an actual fight which they can end up defeating the other side, they have other crucial aims when they commit those acts mentioned above. As Sheffer adequately illustrates:
“They (diasporas) use violence and terror mainly as “revenge” of acts against them, to draw attention to their plight and to conflicts in their host countries in which they are immersed, and as means to address and redress the quandaries and demands of their homelands.”[xvi]
This kind of extremism is spreading very fast in Western European Countries and North America. As Lithman argues, today diaspora links to terrorism can be related to two different situations: terrorist activities related to the homeland issues and terrorist activities as a reaction to the hostland foreign or domestic policies.[xvii] Both of these aspects will be analyzed by examples in the following pages.
II. DIASPORA LINKS TO POLITICAL VIOLENCE and TERRORISM
It has been put forward by many researchers and policy makers that a certain number of diaspora groups keep their ties to the conflicts and struggles in the homeland. Various researchers, such as Gunaratna argues that the politicized, radicalized, and mobilized segments of migrant and diaspora communities are today functioning as bridgeheads for terrorist groups[xviii]. For instance, the diaspora groups give voluntary or involuntary support to armed groups in the homeland through remittances, guerilla recruitment and active participation in armed struggles. Hoffman also argues that nowadays, alarmingly, the diaspora groups are getting engaged in violent acts and are participating in terrorist attacks against their own governments or against international actors[xix]. He suggests four categories that diasporas can provide support to this kind of terrorist activities:
3- procurement of weapons,
4- lobbying of adopted governments.
Equally diaspora groups, who support peace processes at home, may cause problems by sending remittances. As a World Bank Report claims, diasporas who even took part in efforts to resolve conflict and supported peace building projects, particularly in Eritrea and Sri Lanka, with their remittances; naively helped to renew conflicts in their home countries following political upheavals.[xx] Not only financial support and remittances but also recruitment of guerrillas to fight the struggle in the homeland is a regular phenomenon within the diaspora groups. Examples on this front galore and that is why mostly, in the conflict situation, diasporas are seen as part of the problem not as part of the solution.[xxi]
Existing studies about the diaspora groups mostly concentrate on the activities of the militant and hard-line diaspora groups. Among them, the frequently cited cases are the Irish, Tamil, Sikhs and Kurdish Diasporas.[xxii] For instance, strong Irish Diaspora community in the United States was considered to be one of the most classic cases of diaspora’s involvement in homeland conflicts. Growing evidence is emerging that during the violent conflict period in 1980s and 1990s, the Irish Republican Army (IRA) had regularly received significant financial support from the Irish Diaspora.[xxiii] As Jonsson and Cornell illustrates; “IRA has been credited with pioneering the kind of sophisticated financial networks that many of the world’s large and long-lived terrorist organizations today use to sustain themselves... The IRA traditionally financed itself through… the Irish Diaspora in the USA via organizations such as Noraid. According to some sources, diaspora funds accounted for up to half of its incomes during the late 1970’s and early 1980’s [xxiv]”
The Kurdish Diaspora in Europe substantially contributes to conflicts in the homeland by providing financial support to the rebel groups as well. It raises large sums of money in Europe to financially support the violent activities in Turkey and most of these contributions appear to be voluntary.[xxv] The PKK is engaging in political and fundraising activities that blurred the lines between politics and ordinary civic activity. Hoffman claims that one half of the PKK’s budget during the 90’s came from the Kurdish Diaspora in Europe[xxvi]. Recent events also show that Kurdish Diaspora is highly linked to the Kurdish problem in Turkey. For instance in July 2008, three German tourists in Turkey were kidnapped by the PKK militants in order to protest the German government’s measures against support for terrorism in the diaspora. The ban on the Kurdish activist TV channel in Germany was another reason for the PKK reaction to Germany. This incident was a perfect example to show that diaspora involvement in terrorism and violent activities do not just threat the homeland adversary groups but also it might be a potential threat for the hostland once in a while. ( For more information see the link http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/L09303259.htm )
Another observable group is Sri Lankan Tamil Diaspora. Most of the Tamils in the diaspora perceive the guerrilla group LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam) as an organization, which represents hope and aspiration of all Sri Lankan Tamils.[xxvii] Large number of Tamil organizations and individuals, through substantial transfer of remittances, support the Tamil population in need in the Northeastern part of the Sri Lanka, as well as the organizations affiliated with the separatist movement.[xxviii] LTTE’s networks for funding collection are extremely efficient and most Tamils, willingly or unwillingly, contribute regularly to the “freedom fight” in Sri Lanka.[xxix] With regards to the Sri Lankan case, there are so many examples which prove that the LTTE supporters in the diaspora commit violent acts against moderate Tamils who belong to the diaspora. In several countries, mainly in Canada, the terror organization recruit guerillas among the diaspora members, most of the time by force. They also commit acts that will disturb the security of the citizens of the country of residence as much as the diaspora members. The transnational networks make it even more difficult to control and prevent. For instance; in October 1996, A Tamil Tiger assassin gunned down the LTTE’s treasurer for France and a companion in Paris and the gunman is believed to have escaped to Canada and is being hidden by the LTTE there. ( For more information see the link: http://www.mackenzieinstitute.com/2000/2000_04_Tigers_Terrorism.html) It can be said that to facilitate maintaining security, the hostland should also have coherent and consistent policies towards the diaspora groups which are doubted about their affiliation to terrorism and political violence.
Furthermore, many diaspora groups were active in mobilizing support for the liberation struggles, wars, and terrorism that accompanied the break-up of Yugoslavia. Funds were raised, political mobilization and propaganda undertaken, and some even returned “home” to fight[xxx]. Several radicalized segment of diaspora and migrant groups actively help or have helped terrorists to develop enhanced capabilities; such as the Kosovars… The sudden upsurge in strength of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) during the summer of 1998 has been partially attributed to the spectacular fundraising efforts by the Albanian Diaspora in the West. In addition, a substantial number of Kosovar Albanians in the diaspora returned to Kosovo in the late 1990s to directly take part in the conflict.[xxxi]There is also a range of examples of terrorist actions from the Croat related killing of Yugoslavian ambassador in Sweden to the recent London bombings… Especially after 9/11, “the hostland grown” terrorists became an issue of focus in the academia since all four 9/11 pilots were members of diasporas, either in the US or Europe[xxxii].
Nevertheless, there is still so much to discover about the activities the diaspora groups engage as a support to armed struggles back home or their affiliations with terrorism. Today, it is a common perception that networked diasporas require attention. Diaspora communities can provide extremists with a permissive environment that can favor conditions that enable the emergence of extremist cells. Radical enclaves may emerge with diaspora communities and serve as catalysts for radicalization.[xxxiii]Another perception agreed by a majority of experts and scholars is that the survival of a terrorist group depends not upon the strength of the terrorist group itself but upon the terrorist group’s support network and they are more and more becoming dependent on their transnational communities for support[xxxiv]. At this point, the hostlands should be esteemed in a duty to control and if necessary prevent extremism in those transnational groups.
[ii] Sullivan, John P., “Policing Networked Diasporas”, Small Wars Journal, July 9 2007.
[iii]Tinker, Aiken, Shimooka, Himer. Diasporas and Terrorism Project.
[iv] Sheffer, Gabriel. “Non-state actors, terrorism and WMDS: the case of ethno-national-religious diasporas.”, Discussion paper. http://gotoknow.org/file/chutbloc/sheffer.pdf
[v] Gunaratna, Rohan. “The Terror Market: Networks and Enforcements in the West”, Harvard Review, Underground Markets, Vol. 27 (4) - Winter 2006 Issue. http://www.harvardir.org/index.php?page=article&id=1507
[vi] Spear, Joanna., “ The Potential Diaspora Groups to Contribute to Peace Building: A Scoping Paper” (University of Bradford, Transformation of War Economies Project’s Working Paper, 2006).
[vii] Shain, Yossi & Barth, Aharon., “Diasporas and International Relations Theory”, International Organization, 57, 3 (2003), p. 452.
[viii] Tötölian, Khachig .,“The Nation State and Others: In Lieu of a Preface”, Diaspora, 1, 1 (1991), pp. 3-7.
[ix] Cohen, Robin., “Diasporas and the Nation State: From Victims to Challengers”, International Affairs, 72, 3 (1996), pp. 507.
[x] Vertovec, Steven .“The Political Importance of Diasporas”, Migration Information Source, June 2005.
[xi] Demmers, Joell., “Diaspora and Conflict: Locality, Long Distance Nationalism and Delocalization of conflict Dynamics”, The Public, 9, 1 (2001), pp. 86.
[xiv] Demmers, Jolle, “Diaspora and Conflict: Locality, Long-Distance Nationalism, and Delocalization of Conflict Dynamics”, in: The Public, vol. 9, No.1, 2002, 85-94. p. 94.
[xv] Lyons, Terrence., “Diasporas and Homeland Conflict”, http://www.bsos.umd.edu/gvpt/davenport/dcawcp/paper/mar0304.pdf.
[xvi] Sheffer, Gabriel. “Non-state actors, terrorism and WMDS: the case of ethno-national-religious diasporas.”, Discussion paper. http://gotoknow.org/file/chutbloc/sheffer.pdf
[xvii] Lithman, Yngve Georg. “ McJihad: Globalization and Terrorism of the Diaspora”, National Europe Centre Paper No.71, Paper presented to conference entitled The Challanges of Immigration and Integration in European Union and Australia, 18-20 February 2003, University of Sydney.
[xviii] Gunaratna, Rohan. “Strategic Counter Terrorism: The Way Forward.” P.63-74. http://www.terrorisminfo.mipt.org/pdf/Terrorism-Whats-Coming-The-Mutating-Threat.pdf
[xix] Hoffman, Bruce. “Radicalisation, Terrorism and Diasporas.”p. 1-4. http://www.rand.org/pubs/conf_proceedings/2007/RAND_CF229.pdf
[xx] Vertovec, Steven., “The Political Importance of Diasporas”, Migration Information Source, June 2005., p. 5.
[xxi] Demmers, Joell., “New Wars and Diasporas: Suggestions for Research and Policy”, Journal of Peace, Conflict and Development, 11 (2007).
[xxii] Mohamoud, Abdullah A. , “Untapped Potential for Peace Building in the Homelands” in Paul van Tongeren, Malin Brenk, Marte Hellema, and Juliette Verhoeven, eds., People Building Peace II (Utrecht: ECCP, 2005).
[xxiii] Horst, Cindy., “The Role of Diasporas in Civil War”, Working paper presented at the CSCW workshop on the transnational facets of civil war (Oslo: PRIO, 2007), p. 4.
[xxiv] Jonsson, Michael & Cornell, Svante. “Countering Terrorist Financing : Lessons from Europe”, Conflict & Security, Georgetown Journal of International Affairs. Winter/ Spring 2007. p.69-70.
[xxv] Bruinessen, Martin Van., “Shifting National and Ethnic Identities: the Kurds in Turkey and the European Diaspora”, Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs, 18, 1 (1998), pp. 39-52.
[xxvi] Hoffman, Bruce. “Radicalisation, Terrorism and Diasporas.” P.1-4. http://www.rand.org/pubs/conf_proceedings/2007/RAND_CF229.pdf
[xxvii] Orjuela, Camilla., “Distant Warriors, Distant Peace Workers? Multiple Diaspora Roles in Sri Lanka’s Violent Conflict”, Background paper of the High Level Expert Forum on ’Capacity Building for Peace and Development: Roles of Diaspora’ (Toronto: University for Peace, 19-20 October 2006).
[xxviii] Zunzer, Wolfram., “Diaspora Communities”. p. 27. http://www.tamilnation.org/diaspora/Zunzer,_Wolfram_-_Diaspora_Communities_and_Civil_Conflict_Transformation.pdf
[xxix] Orjuela, Camilla., “Distant Warriors, Distant Peace Workers? Multiple Diaspora Roles in Sri Lanka’s Violent Conflict”, Background paper of the High Level Expert Forum on ’Capacity Building for Peace and Development: Roles of Diaspora’ (Toronto: University for Peace, 19-20 October 2006). p. 8.
[xxx] Brynen, Rex. “Diaspora Populations and Security Issues in the Host Countries.” http://www.international.metropolis.net/events/croatia/brynen.pdf
[xxxi] Demmers, Joell., “Diaspora and Conflict: Locality, Long Distance Nationalism and Delocalization of conflict Dynamics”, The Public, 9, 1 (2001), pp. 85-96.
[xxxii] Gunaratna, Rohan. “ Al Qa’ida and Diasporas.” P. 37-55.
[xxxiii] Sullivan, John P., “Policing Networked Diasporas”, Small Wars Journal, July 9 2007.