What is terrorism?
Terrorism is distinguished from other acts of violence, and from war, by always having these four characteristics:
- Terrorists violate the rules of modern warfare, established in acts called the Geneva Conventions and Hague Conventions; or they are actors (e.g., sub-state groups) who can't declare war legitimately;
- Its goal is to achieve political change;
- Its targets are symbolic of the political issue in question;
- Acts of terror are designed to get attention from the public and media.
Terrorism in the pre-modern world
Violent acts on behalf of political change are as old as human history. The Sicarii were a first-century Jewish group who murdered enemies and collaborators in their campaign to oust their Roman rulers from Judea.
The Hashhashin, whose name gave us the English word 'assassins,' were a secretive Islamic sect active in Iran and Syria from the 11th to the 13th century.
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