Understanding the emotional impact of terrorism
In the 1970s and 1980s, Italy was plagued with terrorist attacks carried out by extremist political groups. Despite three cycles of trials, the Italian justice system has failed to convict many of the suspected perpetrators.
Research by the Department of Politics, Languages and International Studies is contributing to the ongoing work by victim support groups. Their mission is to establish the truth, keep alive public memory, commemorate the victims, and inform the public and the young of what happended during the attacks.
Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), Professor Anna Bull is gathering information to understand how families of victims are coming to terms with what happened in the attacks. The work involves interviewing former perpetrators and the relatives of victims, as well as examining documentation and verdicts from the trials.
Extreme left and extreme right political groups committed the attacks, which included kidnappings, bomb attacks and the assassination of police officers, journalists, magistrates and politicians.
The research has helped victim support groups in their search for truth and justice. Groups regularly ask Professor Bull to speak at commemorative events. The work is supporting ongoing projects to establish a dialogue between former terrorists and the relatives of victims, in the hope of finding closure.
Outcomes of the research
Research interviews have identified several reasons for the continued existence of victim support groups decades after the attacks came to an end, which include:
- a commitment to find the truth of what happened in the attacks
- promoting peace and preventing future violence
- upholding democracy and transparency
The work has also explored the role of government in supporting victims of terrorism.
The future of the project
Following on from her research into Italian terrorism, Professor Bull hopes to broaden her research by undertaking a comparative study on the role of victims associations in Italy, Northern Ireland and Spain.
Professor Bull is writing a book to be released in 2012, exploring the end of terrorism and its legacy in terrorism. The book will examine the legacy of both extreme-left and extreme-right terrorism in a comparative perspective.