Of all the deplorable tactics used by terrorists around the
world, the attack in busy Baghdad markets last Friday, in which two women with
mental disabilities were strapped with explosives and then blown up by remote
control, shocked the world with its depravity.
While the specific disabilities of the women remain unknown - one was
described as "crazy" and the other may have had Down syndrome - the moral floor
has fallen out of the insurgents' claims to represent a mass movement, and the
Iraqi government has rightly pounced on the attacks for their anti-al-Qaida
propaganda value. But a deeper question, about the value or the disposability
of persons with disabilities, must be addressed.
The Baghdad attacks aren't the first time persons with disabilities have
been exploited and murdered for malevolent political ends. Between 1939 and
1941, the Action T4 program in Nazi Germany systematically killed between
200,000 to 250,000 people with intellectual or physical disabilities, mass
murder in the name of "racial hygiene."
And sadly, the hideous exploitation of the women in Iraq doesn't appear to
be an anomaly in modern Middle Eastern terrorism. Afghan security officials
have reported of apprehended Taliban bombers who were mentally disabled -
seduced, bribed, tricked, manipulated or coerced into blowing themselves up as
"weapons of God."
Is this a sign that the number of willing suicide bombers is shrinking?
More likely, it's simply another example of the cruel and the desperate turning
against society's most vulnerable.
On this point, there's much the world community can do. Wide condemnation
helps. Al-Qaida has shown itself responsive to public opinion: When al-Qaida
leader Ayman Al Zawahiri said the release of beheading videos in Iraq hurt
their cause, these acts fell dramatically.
The international community has increasingly recognized the rights of
persons with disabilities. In December 2006, the UN General Assembly passed the
Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities. It aims to ensure that
persons with disabilities enjoy human rights on an equal basis with others, and
it actively involved persons with disabilities in the negotiation process.
The convention specifically cites that no one shall be subject to torture
or to cruel, degrading treatment, and that legislation and policies should be
instituted to ensure that instances of exploitation, violence and abuse against
persons with disabilities are identified, investigated and, where appropriate,
prosecuted. The convention has been signed by 123 countries around the world,
many in the Middle East.
In the heart of the Middle East, Her Highness Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser Bin
Abdullah Al-Missned of Qatar has pioneered efforts for the education of
children with disabilities and the inclusion of persons with disabilities in
Qatar's Shafallah Center provides comprehensive services and care to
individuals with developmental learning challenges, their families and the
community. It also recently sponsored a human rights education manual
promoting action and advocacy based on the 2006 UN Convention.
Terrorists adopt - and abandon - their tactics strategically. One would
hope the horror in Baghdad last week is the death rattle of a bankrupt movement
out of options. But as long as there's a sense that the disabled are less than
human, and that the horror inflicted at their expense can be justified
politically, such attacks will continue.
Efforts to raise the acceptance of the disabled as full and equal citizens
are essential not only for a fair and just world, but for removing the
rationale for evil acts perpetrated for someone else's perverse cause.