Vol. 9 No. 01 Januari 2023
Psychological Explanations of Attack Attempt at Presidential Palace
Department of Psychology Universitas Nahdlatul Ulama Indonesia & Division for Applied Social Psychology Research (DASPR)
On October 25, 2022, a woman who was later identified as Siti Elina attempted to break into the Jakarta presidential palace. She brought a pistol and pointed it at palace guards before finally being arrested by an officer. The investigation discovered her connection to the banned organization Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI) and NII (Islamic State of Indonesia) (Putra, 2022; Chaterine, 2022). This attack occurred over a year after Zakiah Aini, a pro-Islamic State (ISIS) young woman assaulting at police headquarters in Jakarta on March 31, 2021. Elina’s motivation to carry an empty pistol led to an assumption of mental disorder. This presumption could be right, however, Elina’s circle containing NII followers -her husband was also detained (Dirgantara, 2022) for affiliating with NII- decreased the possibility of the factor existing. Then, what were the possible drivers motivating Siti Elina to carry out the lone wolf attempt?
There are at least two explanations to understand the case. First, the attempt was a contagion from prior attacks committed by women. Dian Yulia Novi, the 2016 Jakarta presidential palace attacker, the 2018 Surabaya suicide bomber Puji Kuswati, the 2021 lone wolf Zakiah Aini, and other perpetrators were female ISIS supporters who were possibly modeled by Elina. Female Indonesian attackers would give her more strength and closer examples to imitate even though as a pro-Caliphate individual, Elina most probably also watched female suicide bombers from other countries.
The Dian Yulia Novi case was like a gate or opener for women extremists in Indonesia to take a role in “real” jihad. The trend was legible, which was after the 2016 attempt, many women followed suit. There were Siska Nur Azizah and Dita Siska Millenia (Brimob case), Fitri Andriana (Wiranto stabbing), Tri Ernawati (Surabaya police office case), Solimah (Sibolga case), Yogi Sahfitri Fortuna (Makassar cathedral bomber), and the current discussed case. They carried out a jihad operation with or without their husbands, unlike the prior 2016 trend, in which women participated in non-violence movements such as soliciting funds, disseminating propaganda, cybercrime, and hiding suspected terrorists.
The further question is whether a terror act is contagious. Scholars (e.g. Renard, 2016), LaFree et al., 2017) examined this topic and discovered a yes answer. Terrorism is contagious both in tactic and target, and spread between organizations and territory. Murders of Christians in Sigi, West Sulawesi by Mujahidin Indonesia Timur (MIT) in November 2020, for example, was a replication of attacks in Africa and Afghanistan (Rufaedah & Putra, 2021). In Elina case, it is true that NII and ISIS are distinguished; nevertheless, referring to contagion between different groups, it was highly possible for Elina to imitate ISIS.
Praise from fellow jihadists for a violent effort potentially gave Elina more motivation to commit an act. Many news media had reported such praises. Sanchez (2017), for example, revealed celebrations from ISIS sympathizers in online media after the 2017 Manchester attack (Ariana Grande concert) which took 22 lives. The same reactions were shown by extremists following the Paris assault in November 2015 (Engel & Schuppe, 2015) killing more than 125 people.
Secondly, Elina was motivated to fill the vacuum of jihadist operations. Till the Elina attempt, no attacks were launched by Indonesian jihadi groups in 2022, both by ISIS and al-Qaeda followers, while arrests by Detachment 88 anti-terror (Densus 88) continued. This fact raised concern for jihadists, including women, and encouraged them to take a role with their own hands. Elina was possibly also criticizing male jihadists for not committing any actions. Amaliyah (jihadi attacks) by women bring stronger effects to shame male jihadists since men according to jihadi groups are the primary actors who must engage in the battlefield. Their social effect is also higher since people view women participating in armed jihad to have broken the common gender norm (O’Rourke, 2009). When women decided to go out and commit an amaliyah, others were shocked and it effectively slapped male jihadists for being left behind.
Success and failure do not really matter for jihadists since they respect more the courage and willingness of attackers to take steps in establishing an Islamic state, instead of the result of their attacks. Killing or being killed brings them to achieve valuable and divine rewards. A successful assault will raise fear of enemies (e.g. police, army, government, non-Muslims) and affect multiple aspects of a country, including in economy, politics, security, and international relations, while being killed will grant them martyrdom. Indeed, compared to male martyrs -male martyrs will gain 72 angels in paradise- rewards for female martyrs were rather unclear; however, for establishing an Islamic caliphate, any attempts by any individuals are finally acceptable. The two aforementioned factors then got a justification or pusher from the dream of entering paradise (being a “martyr”) which might Elina have desired for a long time.
Chaterine, R. N. (2022, October 28). Siti Elina dan suami jadi tersangka, Densus 88 telusuri jaringan NII Jakarta Utara. Kompas. Retrieved January 25, 2023, from https://nasional.kompas.com/read/2022/10/28/13384781/siti-elina-dan-suami-jadi-tersangka-densus-88-telusuri-jaringan-nii-jakarta.
Dirgantara, A. (2022, October 27). Densus 88 Sebut Suami Siti Elina Telah Berbaiat kepada NII. Kompas. Retrieved January 26, 2023, from https://nasional.kompas.com/read/2022/10/27/11512001/densus-88-sebut-suami-siti-elina-telah-berbaiat-kepada-nii.
Engel, R. & Schuppe, J. (2015, November 14). Paris attacks: ISIS supporters celebrate, but who's to blame? NBC News. Retrieved January 26, 2023, from https://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/paris-terror-attacks/paris-attacks-isis-supporters-celebrate-whos-blame-n463321
LaFree, G., Xie, M., & Matanock, A. M. (2017). The Contagious Diffusion of Worldwide Terrorism: Is It Less Common Than We Might Think? Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, 41(4), 261–280. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/1057610X.2017.1290428
O’Rourke, L. A. (2009). What’s special about female suicide terrorism? Security Studies, 18, 618–718. https://doi.org/10.1080/09636410903369084
Putra, A. T. (2022, October 29). Pakar terorisme tuding NII di balik aksi Siti Elina, ini analisisnya. Detik. Retrieved January 25, 2023, from https://www.detik.com/jateng/hukum-dan-kriminal/d-6376426/pakar-terorisme-tuding-nii-di-balik-aksi-siti-elina-ini-analisisnya
Rufaedah, A, & Putra, I. E. (2021, January 19). IS replication in Indonesia and counterterrorism after the Sigi attack. East Asia Forum. https://www.eastasiaforum.org/2021/01/09/is-replication-in-indonesia-and-counterterrorism-after-the-sigi-attack/
Sanchez, R. (May 17, 2017). Islamic State supporters celebrate Manchester attack online. The Telegraph. Retrieved January 26, 2023, from https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/05/23/islamic-state-supporters-celebrate-manchester-attack-online/