It was another day in Khost, Afghanistan, when Shakirullah Yasin Ali, aged 14, climbed into the driver’s seat of a car, turned the ignition, and said a final prayer. The car was wired to a bomb. Shakirhullah knew his mission to drive the car near clustered British and American people then detonate it. He was about to die – or so he thought. Stopped and caught, he later said, “All I know is what the mullahs told me and kept telling me: that the British and Americans were against God”.
30 years before that on November 18th, 1978, 909 people drank Flavor-Aid mixed with cyanide and valium. The group knew death was imminent. They were members of a cult reportedly persuaded by their leader to drink the poison. Known as the Jonestown incident, this is one example of multiple ritual suicides committed by cult members.
What kind of power can convince people – from frightened teenagers to large groups of adults – to do something as extreme as ending their own lives? Read more