Who are "victims of terrorism"?

05-05-2019 11:25 am

Recently I was asked why I consider myself a "victim". At first I was annoyed, and thought. "that was rude". But then when I realised that the person asking was geniunely interested in my answer - it took me a few seconds to think about what I was going to answer, and afterwards it made me think that there must be others that also are confused about what a "victim of terrorism" actually is.

First, the dictionary definition of a victim is: "a person harmed, injured or killed as a result  of a crime, accident or other event or action." In describing "victims of terrorism", there is no clear or universal definition in international law. What that means is that each country has varying definitions of who the "victims of terrorism" are, and that there is no universal definition.

The 1985 United Nations Declaration stated that victims of crime are:

1. "Victims" means persons who, individually or collectively, have suffered harm, including physical or mental injury, emotional suffering, economic loss or substantial impairment of their fundamental rights, through acts or omissions that are in violation of criminal laws operative within Member States, including those laws proscribing criminal abuse of power.

2. A person may be considered a victim, under this Declaration, regardless of whether the perpetrator is identified, apprehended, prosecuted or convicted and regardless of the familial relationship between the perpetrator and the victim. The term "victim" also includes, where appropriate, the immediate family or dependants of the direct victim and persons who have suffered harm in intervening to assist victims in distress or to prevent victimization.

In Norway, the government have clearly defined who the victims of the 22-July terrorist attacks in 2011 are. Until I asked my parents, I didn't know how the distinction was made. The victims are defined as: the 77 people who were killed, the survivors (approx. 325 that were in the government building or area in Oslo, and 564 people who were on Utøya at the time of the attacks), and the immediate families to the people who were killed (bereaved). All the "victims of the 22-July terrorist attacks" are legally identified and defined as a result of the police investigation.

Do I think I am a victim? My subjective meaning is: Of course I am. Why do I think I am a victim? I think the answer is pretty obvious. But whether I won't to be a victim or not - the fact is my sister, my parents daughter was killed, and everyday since Sharidyn was killed we live with the consequences of her brutal murder, just as other families of the 22-July terrorist attacks (and other terrorist attacks) do.

Creating awareness about the victims of terrorism has been important to me, because I have negative experiences of some people thinking that we are not "victims" because it was my sister that was killed and not us, or even worse "that we play victims". Not only are statements like that insensitive and down right rude, but it is also devalues our relationship to my sister. No family, including mine choose "our life". We were forcibly victimised because of hate and intolerance. People that "shame-blame" the "victims" because they are victims, are in my opinion - fueling hate and intolerance, and deliberately re-traumatising the victims with the intent of hurting them. 

All the families that I know, have spent the past almost 8 years struggling to piece together their lives. Each time there is a new terrorist attack, we all are reminded of the day our loved one was killed - and the pain and suffering each one of us has had to live with. If the larger community around each one of the victims (bereaved, survivors and their families) forget that they will never stop being victims as long as they live, to me is a tragedy in itself.

Compassion for the victims should never stop, just because years have passed. We know other families of other terrorist events who have lived 15-20 years without their loved ones, and they are reminded of that same paralysing fear and grief, every time there is a new terrorist attack. I have lived almost 8 years without Sharidyn, and the pain I feel about losing my sister didn't suddenly disappear one day I wasn't looking. It is only bcause of my parents, that I have learn't to see the beauty in our life so that the pain and hurt of losing Sharidyn, isn't a constant feeling - which some days it is. I think people forget that when Sharidyn was killed I was only 7 years old, and my little sister was a baby. For us, we are still learning not just about how and why Sharidyn was killed - but also how to cope with our grief. You don't just wake up - and suddenly have the coping skills. Which is the reason why I have my blog - to create awareness, and advocate on behalf of victims that are like me and my family. ❤


Me and my big sister (2016) Photo and caption credit: V.Svebakk

Victims of 2011 terrorist attacks in Oslo and Utøya (2011) Photo Credit: Unknown