After reviewing photographs and video taken on July 1 and 2, 2016 at Holey Artisan Bakery, I think it is abundantly clear that Tahmid’s body language is not what one would associate with a terrorist.
Tahmid’s body language in the images and videos display clusters of the most common signs any human would unconsciously display when feeling vulnerable, submissive and extremely fearful for their life.
When we look at a photograph we cannot capture people’s voices, so unfortunately it’s impossible to hear what is actually being said.
For the trained eye, the physical appearance – the position of the head, arms, legs, the facial expression and walk – all reveal clues as to what is going on in any given situation. And this is precisely why the FBI now includes body language analysis in its training programme for new agents. It is the first major change in its training programme in 50 years.
Because, what we can discover from body language is often far more important than what we can hear.
Photos 1 and 2
Let’s first look at the body language of the terrorist.
He is standing in a very open, upright and confident posture. The head is held high and the hands are held gently at the back. This posture exposes his most vulnerable area at the front – his torso.
This is the classic body language of someone who is feeling confident, assured, relaxed and at ease.
In the second picture, you will see him standing in a classic alpha male, macho posture. Again, he looks fearless, dominant and in control: he is standing tall, shoulders back, head held high, open chest, confidently exposing his most vulnerable area, the torso.
The arms are at the side and are not being used to create a barrier – this alone is a sign of very high confidence – legs and feet are almost hip width apart, which would suggest he is ready for action. This is the body language of someone who feeling fearless, dominating, in control and clearly in command. His body language is sending a very loud and clear non-verbal message as to who is in charge in this group.
As the two hostages walk away, they appear to be observing an order to go. Both are walking behind each other, projecting signs of discomfort and submission – bowed or tilted heads, downward gaze, heads pointing towards the ground, shoulders hunched – a general “caving in” of gestures and posture. These are gestures that can be summarised as passive, fearful and vulnerable.
Now let’s compare Tahmid’s body language to that of the terrorist. You will immediately notice a vast difference in the body language between the two men.
Where the terrorist is displaying a macho, confident and dominant body language, Tahmid’s is the opposite – Tahmid’s body language is clearly sending non-verbal signs of fear, vulnerability and submissiveness. His hands are crossed in front of the body to form a barrier and the wrist is held as an attempt to self-pacify.
Let’s first take a look at the picture on the right. We can see Tahmid’s head is slightly tilted. When we’re feeling fearful, the head tilt is common – it exposes the carotid artery on the side of the neck, and in times of stress this indicates submission and feelings of vulnerability.
You may be wondering why there appears to be a smile on Tahmid’s face? Well the reality is that we don’t only smile when we are happy; we also smile when we are feeling out of depth around someone. In these situations we will offer an unnatural smile, as a badge of appeasement. This is very common when people meet those who are of higher status, they will offer this type of appeasement smile in order to try and placate the other person. And in this instance it’s abundantly clear who is of the highest status – and in this type of life threatening situation, any human being’s natural response would be to try and appease the person in charge to try and ensure their own survival.
Let’s now focus on the photograph of Tahmid on the roof.
Tahmid is seen displaying a cluster of classic gestures, which again are associated with feelings of fear and vulnerability.
Again, the most important and telling gesture is the way in which Tahmid is holding onto his wrist – it’s a common self pacifying gesture, and its one of the first gestures people display when feeling threatened.
Tahmid is not only self –pacifying by gripping his wrist, his limbic brain (the part of the brain which controls our body language) has also unconsciously created a protective barrier to partially shield his torso and the vulnerable area below the stomach, creating what is called the fig leaf stance.
When an individual is feeling vulnerable – men especially – they will unconsciously position their hands and arms, to cover the area just below the stomach. As you can see from the photograph, this is the gesture that Tahmid is clearly displaying whilst standing next to the terrorist. It’s an extremely telling gesture, which projects high vulnerability and low confidence.
A gesture which projects vulnerability is not one you would expect to see on the body language of a terrorist who is holding a gun.
Notice the way Tahmid is seen tightly gripping the wrist of his opposite hand whilst holding the gun. This is a very odd way for someone to stand with a gun – anyone who is used to holding a gun would not normally hold it in this position – and certainly not close to a very vulnerable part of the body. It’s the type of hold one would normally expect to see from someone who is not used to holding a gun.
The gesture is also serving another important purpose – the arms are partially protecting the front of the body. When we feel threatened we will unconsciously seek to protect and shield the area of our body where all our most vital organs live – the torso.
(Available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r2OVQZ_hMwY)
Observe the way in which Tahmid is walking away in this video; he appears to be in deep shock.
Notice Tahmid’s gait (the way in which he is walking). It’s a walk which is similar to what one would expect to see when an individual is in shock. You often see people walking towards an ambulance in this way, after being involved in a car accident – confused and disorientated. Tahmid’s walk is almost identical to this, he appears to be completely dazed and in shock. This would be normal for anyone who has just witnessed killings take place – we can only imagine what he may have been subjected to prior to walking out.
He is struggling to walk in a straight line, taking very tentative steps and seems unsure of which direction he should be heading.
The group dynamic is very clear – this is not a team. The evidence shows that within the group, there is one very confident and dominant perpetrator and two submissive innocent victims.
From the photographs it is abundantly clear that Tahmid’s body language is not what you would associate with a terrorist. His body language is too far removed from a confident and at ease posture – it is, in fact, exactly the opposite.
In my opinion Tahmid is, without any doubt, an innocent victim caught up in a terrible atrocity. Tahmid is a victim of circumstance whose only crime was to be at the wrong place, at the wrong time … something that could happen to any of us.
India Ford, an internationally renowned body language expert based in central London, is considered by many to be one of the best in the industry. Her clientele include Fortune 500 company chairmen, CEOs, MDs, barristers, high-profile VVIPs, surgeons, investment bankers and entrepreneurs. Tahmid's family has enlisted India Ford's aid to help clear his name.