Day in Washington Podcast #21 (Suicide Bombers with Disabilities – Redux)

Day in Washington- The Disability Policy Podcast explores and discusses various aspects of disability policy. Each episode will cover a specific issue within disability, and/or a disability-related news article. These 5-10 minute podcasts offer an easy to understand introduction to disability policy and resources for those interested in further study. You can find the text of each podcast in the comments.  If you have difficulty downloading the podcast, please right-click and save it to your computer for playback.

Episode Summary:

In May 2007, I blogged about an interesting article about suicide bombers with disabilities. In July, I turned it into a podcast discussing the assertion by an Afghani doctor that 90% of suicide bombers have a disability. NPR covered this issue in October and just this month, it made front page news again when two women with disabilities blew up a market in Iraq. Is this some terrible trend and what does this mean for people with disabilities in Iraq and Afghanistan?

Audio File:  Day in Washington Podcast #21 – (Suicide Bombers with Disabilities)

Show Notes

– Introduction, Date of Podcast

– 90% of suicide bombers have a disability

– The targeting of vulnerable populations

– How the recent examples of suicide bombers differ

– Motivations of suicide bombers with disabilities

– The government’s response

– Closing and Contact information

– Disclaimer


Day in Washington Podcast on Suicide Bombers with Disabilities (July 2007)

Original Free Republic Source Article on Suicide Bombers with Disabilities (May 2007)

NPR story on Suicide Bombers with Disabilities (October 2007)

CNN Article on Suicide Attacks by 2 Women with Disabilities (February 2, 2008)

Huffington Post – Mental Hospital Administrator Held (February 13, 2008)

Huffington Post – Iraqi Police to Round Up People with Disabilities, Homeless Beggars (February 19, 2008)

Reuters – New suicide bombing by man in wheelchair (February 25, 2008)

Bombing for God. Special report: Israel and the Middle East. Guardian Newspapers Limited. – Source for Faisal Bodi quote. (2001)

2 comments for “Day in Washington Podcast #21 (Suicide Bombers with Disabilities – Redux)

  1. Day
    February 28, 2008 at 2:57 pm

    Transcript will be available in 6 hours.

  2. admin
    February 29, 2008 at 11:27 am


    Welcome to a Day in Washington. Day in Washington is your disability policy podcast covering legislative issues of interest to the disability community. We also spotlight specific bills and other related news articles. I'm your host, Day Al-Mohamed working to make sure you stay informed. This is Podcast #21 scheduled for Monday, February 26, 2008.

    In May 2007, I blogged about an interesting article about suicide bombers with disabilities. In July, I turned it into a podcast discussing the assertion by an Afghani doctor and forensic expert that 90% of suicide bombers have a disability. Dr. Yadgari claimed that every suicide bomber's body in Kabul-based attacks that passed through his morgue had signs of disabilities such as muscular dystrophy, amputated toes, blindness, skin diseases and signs of mental illness.

    Although I had some skepticism about his claims, in October, 2007, just 3 months after my podcast, National Public Radio (NPR) covered this issue following up on Dr. Yadgari's claims. Anecdotal evidence does show reports of individuals who would be vulnerable to the influence of such suggestions such as the disaffected, the marginalized, the poor and people with disabilities being approached for the role of suicide bomber. However, subsequent studies of suicide attackers backgrounds have not shown such a correlation.

    Regardless, on February 2nd, the story of suicide bombers with disabilities made front page news. According to Iraqi government officials, two mentally disabled women were strapped with explosives and sent into the busy Friday-weekend Baghdad markets, where they were blown up by remote control.

    An aide said that people referred to the bomber at central Baghdad’s al-Ghazl market as the “crazy woman” and that the bomber at a second market had an unspecified birth disability.

    What makes this particularly heinous is that these women were unaware of plans to detonate the explosives. Whether that is due to their disability or simply ignorance it is something that is horrific and anathema not only to Western sensibilities, but very much goes against the rhetoric put forward even by those who seek to support the idea of suicide attacks.

    Faisal Bodi a muslim journalist wrote in The Guardian that, “in the Muslim world, then, we celebrate what we call the martyr-bombers. To us they are heroes defending the things we hold sacred. Polls in the Middle East show 75% of people in favour of martyr-bombings.”

    The earlier stories spoke of organizations seeking out people with disabilities to become suicide bombers because of loss of ability to live a normal life. As expressed by Firoz Ali Alizada, who lost his legs to a land mine In a culture like ours, disability and the possibility of being out on the street are equated with great shame. A man who is married and has children is suddenly incapable of supporting and feeding his family. He might find it easier to die.

    But this new report is not of seeking volunteers but of actively using vulnerable members of a population. Although originally reported that both women had Down Syndrome, as the story progressed it was reported that the director of the Ibn-Rushd psychiatric teaching hospital, Dr. Shalan al-Abboudi, said that one of the pet market bombers, a 36-year-old married woman, had been treated there for schizophrenia and depression.

    Because of growing up in the Middle East, what I know is that these women did not live alone, and I am sure were being cared for by someone and that for this to happen, it would have needed the tacit approval of their caretaker.

    My suspicion was proven correct when last week an article stated that a Baghdad mental hospital administrator had been arrested on suspicion of supplying mental patients to insurgents for use in suicide bombings.

    Yesterday, another suicide bomber. This time a man in a wheelchair killed a police officer in an attack on the police operations in Samarra, Iraq. It would seem a rather frightening trend is developing.

    The response? The Iraqi Interior Ministry has ordered police to round up beggars, vagabonds and mentally disabled people from the streets of Baghdad to prevent them from being used by insurgents as suicide bombers. Supposedly, those detained in this sweep will be handed over to government institutions to shelter and care for them. I have some significant concerns as to how this will be done. A massive sweep, even in a Western nation would involve significant issues. It is not stated how individuals will be slected and it is unclear exactly what the Ministries of Work and Social Services to whom they will be transferred will do.
    There is now significant security concern about the use of people with disabilities as either willing or unwilling suicide bombers and the government response has been swift to this changing confrontation with insurgents. The question a part of the world where the rights and respect for people with disabilities is already low, what will this do?


    And that is it for this week's edition of Day in Washington. For links to more information, please check the show notes. Please feel free to contact me at regarding comments or suggestions. I'd love to hear from you, but for now, this is your host, Day reminding you to stay well and stay informed.


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    Any opinions and perspectives expressed in this podcast should not be taken as the official stance of any group or organization affiliated with the host. In addition, none of the facts, data, or grammar have been checked for accuracy.

    Thank you for listening.

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