The complex shape of terrorism
with its ideological vertices,
illustrated through data.
Terrorism is the consequence of some groups’ activities originated from the violent radicalization of different mindsets. It is a complex phenomenon and in the 90s the “Declaration on Joint Action to Counter Terrorism” of the ONU General
Assembly recognised it as a global threat to peace and international safety.
There are three core sources that could be identified as triggers of a plurality of ideologies: religious,political and ethnic.
In order to analyse the primary version of terrorism, the one provided by data, we merged together two different datasets from START consortium: the GTD and BAAD2.
We selected 120 terroristic groups and analysed their activities throughout 18 years - from 1998 to 2015 - in order to display a clear picture of the terrorist attacks evolution over time and by the sources.
Terrorist attacks, as in violent actions against community are old and deeply radicated phenomena in history. They are the result of many factors and could be metaphorically compared to a complex geometrical shape.
There are different factors that influence terrorism.
These could be visualised as its faces, while the ideological sources could be compared to its vertices, the origins of the shape.
Terroristic groups start from several radical beliefs that are different in roots and typology. In order to simplify the ideological net, we gather these groups in three main categories: religious, political and ethnic.
The bump chart shows the amount of terroristic attacks over the last 18 years. The trend could be divided in two parts, the first one where the three flows - religious political ethnic - have similar sizes and a second one where there is a significant increase of the religious matrix attacks.
The trend seems to be quite different in Europe, where political conflicts prevail the others. The peak of this trend is in the 2000s, although
there is a religious-based conflict increase in the last years.
The research investigates three main aspects of terrorism: geographical settings, groups and victims. In the first part we tried to layout an overall view about the terroristic attacks distribution from 1998 to 2015 all over the world, always focusing on the amount of victims and on the three different origin points.
Since we identified two main trends in the terrorism evolution, we decided to visually analyse how much the phenomenon has changed over the time, in order to understand where the attacks have been perpetrated and how many people have been killed in these attacks. The map shows three areas were the attacks are most frequent and the trend-lines display the ideological origin points for each area.
The majority of the victims in Asia until the 90s was caused by political and religious-led terrorism.
In the last years there has been a significant increase of the religious ideology-led attacks, slightly lower than in the other regions.
Middle East is the most damaged geographical area. The trends appear to be similar to the other regions; the religious ideological source is the one causing the highest number of deaths, with a high intensification in the last years.
The Sub-Saharan Africa is characterized by the absence of any political ideology-led attacks.
The ethnic trend is always regular throughout the years, while the religious one has seen a significant increase from 2010.
Terrorist groups cover a central role in
the phenomenon, representing one of the main aspects of terrorism. We analysed the deadliest groups, in order to understand how much
a specific ideological source is dangerous
in terms of attacks and victims.
The 120 groups have been analysed and displayed considering the amount of people killed by each one of them. The circles dimensions depend on the number of victims while different colours refer to different ideological sources. The ten
most lethal groups
have been selected and analysed separately
from this stage onwards.
The ten groups are linked to geographical places where they attacked and to the type of attack.
The flows’ dimensions refer to the amount of attacks perpetrated from each group, also identified by the ideological source colour.
The amount of victims throughout the years brought terrorism to be considered as a terrifying global danger.
The following analysis shows different aspects about the victims of terrorism, such as quantity, typology, nationality, social identity.
The amount of people killed from each group
has been analysed from 1998 to 2015. The circles dimensions reflect the quantity of victims.
The alluvial illustrates the target population stroke by the different groups.The flows’ dimensions refer to the quantity of people killed while the colours are always associated to the three ideological sources. The bar graphs show the total percentage of victims per target, coloured according to the ideological sources.
During the analysis process, we investigated the official version of the phenomenon through data. We asked ourselves if the official version reflected exactly what we know about this phenomenon.
We often know the story that is filtered and disseminated by the media.
In order to visualize a comparison, we analysed the terroristic attacks in 2015 and compared them to their mediation through the provider LexisNexis. The result is a graphical comparison for each terroristic group throughout 2015, coloured according to the ideological sources.
Groups activity has been recorded during 2015, tracking the number of attacks they led, in order to show the most active groups.
News have been searched in LexisNexis databank, collected by group names and filtered by months and international coverage.
The comparison between the collected data and media versions of terrorism highlights interesting aspects. In particular, media’s version tends to flatten the phenomenon complexity, simplifying all its faces. Terrorism could be considered
a complex net of ideologies, people and events, different by dynamics, stories and purposes.
Media reduce it to an Islamic-religious phenomenon, related to the Middle East only; they call it with names that can be easily remembered; but actually, there is a lot more behind this.
First of all, terrorism is about people, not only about terrorists but, above all, about victims. It could be considered a real war led by different intentions which bring to the same terrifying point. Terrorism can’t be reduced to an explosion in the Western area of the world, actually it is the smallest part of it. Terrorism is especially a war that some people live every day, it is a fight for ideological, political or ethnic reasons. And moreover, it is not only concerning Middle East, but also other world areas, such as Africa or Asia.