April 11, 2014

Colloquium Speaker: Anne Speckhard


Anne Speckhard, Ph.D. is an Adjunct Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Georgetown University Medical School.  Dr. Speckhard has been working in the field of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) since the 1980’s and has extensive experience working in Europe, the Middle East and the former Soviet Union. She was the chair of the NATO Human Factors & Medicine Research and Technology Experts Group (HFM-140/RTG) on the Psychosocial, Cultural and Organizational Aspects of Terrorism, served as the co-chair of the NATO-Russia Human Factors & Medicine Research Task Group on Social Sciences Support to Military Personnel Engaged in Counter-Insurgency and Counter-Terrorism Operations and served on the NATO Human Factors & Medicine Research Task Group Moral Dilemmas and Military Mental Health Outcomes. She is a member of the United Nations Roster of Experts for the Terrorism Prevention Branch Office on Drugs and Crime and was previously awarded a Public Health Service Fellowship in the United States Department of Health & Human Services where she served as a Research Fellow. 

She has provided expert consultation to European and Middle Eastern governments as well as the U.S. Department of Defense regarding programs for prevention and rehabilitation of individuals committed to political violence and militant jihad.  In 2006-2007 she worked with the U.S. Department of Defense to design and pilot test the Detainee Rehabilitation Program in Iraq.  In 2002, she interviewed hostages taken in the Moscow Dubrovka Theater about their psychological responses and observations of the suicidal terrorists and did the same in 2005 with surviving hostages from the Beslan school take-over. Since 2002, she has collected more than four hundred research interviews of family members, friends, close associates and hostages of terrorists and militant jihadi extremists in Palestine, Israel, Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, Morocco, Russia, Chechnya, Belarus, Netherlands, United Kingdom, Belgium and France.

Dr. Speckhard is the director of the Holocaust Survivors Oral Histories Project – Belarus, a project constructing the history of the Minsk Ghetto and Holocaust in Belarus through oral histories and archival research.

She also researched traumatic stress issues in survivors of the Chernobyl disaster and has written about stress responses to toxic disasters. Dr. Speckhard worked with American expatriates after 9-11 (at SHAPE, NATO, the U.S. Embassy to Belgium and Mission to the EU) and conducted research on acute stress responses to terrorism in this population.  She also studies psychological resilience to terrorism in various populations including American civilians, military and diplomats serving in Iraq under high threat security conditions. Dr. Speckhard co-directed the NATO Advanced Research Workshops - Ideologies of Terrorism: Understanding and Predicting the Social, Psychological and Political Underpinnings of Terrorism and Understanding and Addressing the Root Causes of Radicalization among Groups with an Immigrant Heritage in Europe and served on the NATO/Russia Counter-Terrorism Advisory Group.

Dr. Speckhard consults to governments and lectures to security experts worldwide.  She is the author of Talking to Terrorists: Understanding the Psycho-Social Motivations of Militant Jihadi Terrorists, Mass Hostage Takers, Suicide Bombers and “Martyrs”, Fetal Abduction: The True Story of Multiple Personalities and Murder and co-author of Warrior Princess: A U.S. Navy SEALs Journey to Coming out Transgender.




Colloquium Topic: Talking to Terrorists: Understanding the Psycho-Social Motivations of Militant Jihadi Terrorists

What puts vulnerable individuals on the terrorist trajectory and what might also take them back off it?  Having interviewed over four hundred terrorists, their friends, family members and hostages, having visited, and even stayed overnight at times in the intimate spaces of terrorists’ homes, having interviewed them in their stark prison cells and having met them in the streets of their villages and cities, Dr. Speckhard gives us a rare glimpse of terrorists within their own contexts. From the mouths of terrorists, their family members, comrades—and even their hostages, we learn of the manipulation of human weakness that can lead to their evil acts. Through careful research of culture and religion, and with a genuine desire to understand the factors that motivate individuals to embrace terrorism, Dr. Speckhard deftly defines the lethal cocktail that leads to the creation of a terrorist. In addition, her work addresses the issues of disengaging, deradicalizing and rehabilitating a terrorist, to reverse his or her trajectory. Dr. Speckhard’s studies reveal the humanity in us all—especially in those we least expect—and offer possibilities for achieving a safer world.