"To experience a fulfilling life,
one must embark on the journey of exploration."
Best-selling author, online educator, and professor
Professor Rohan Gunaratna is a specialist in global security affairs. His life is a rich tapestry of three decades of work dedicated to academia, policy, and operational realms within national and international security.
Currently holding the position of Professor of Security Studies at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technology University, Singapore, his extensive knowledge and experience contribute significantly to our understanding of the complex security landscape.
He earned his master’s degree from the University of Notre Dame in the United States as a Hesburgh Scholar.
His journey continued with a doctorate from the University of St Andrews in the United Kingdom, where he held the prestigious title of British Chevening Scholar.
Previously, Professor Rohan Gunaratna served as a Senior Fellow at both the Combating Terrorism Centre at the United States Military Academy at West Point and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.
His expertise and accomplishments earned him the honour of testifying before the 9/11 Commission on the intricate structure of al-Qaeda.
Gunaratna holds distinguished honorary appointments, serving as the Chairman of the Global Peace Institute, UK; Secretary General of the Consortium for Countering the Financing of Terrorism (CCFT); Member of the Advisory Board at The International Institute for Justice and the Rule of Law (IIJ), Malta; and Member of the Board of Directors at the Indo-Pacific Centre, Singapore.
A prolific author with 30 published books, including the renowned “Inside al Qaeda: Global Network of Terror” (University of Columbia Press), Gunaratna also curated the Insurgency and Terrorism Series for the Imperial College Press, London.
His expertise extends to training national security agencies, law enforcement authorities, and military counter-terrorism units.
He has conducted interviews with terrorists and insurgents in various conflict zones, such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, and Saudi Arabia.
In recognition of his significant contributions to advancing international security cooperation, Gunaratna has been honoured with the prestigious Major General Ralph H. Van Deman Award in 2014.
Scholar, explorer & aesthete
Rohan Gunaratna is globally recognized for his expertise in national and international security.
Born in Sri Lanka, he served as the Research Assistant to President J. R. Jayewardena. Gunaratna’s first book manuscript, the Sino-Lankan Connection” was presented by President J. R. Jayewardena to Chairman Deng Xiaoping.
Published by the Ministry of State, Gunaratna presented the book to Chinese Premier Li Xian Nian.
Gunaratna first read Paul Wilkinson’s “Terrorism and the Liberal State” in President Jayewardena’s study in 1986.
Ten years after he served as the teaching assistant to Professor Wilkinson, the founder of the academic discipline of terrorism studies in the UK.
To pursue his education, Gunaratna received a three year British Chevening scholarship from the UK foreign and commonwealth office and the University of St Andrews International Relations Award from 1996-1999.
Gunaratna’s PhD was supervised by Professor Bruce Hoffman and his external examiner was Professor Gerard Chaliand.
Gunaratna received his PhD at the same convocation in 2000 when JK Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series was awarded an honorary degree (Doctor of Letters) by St Andrews.
Gunaratna was appointed a Research Fellow at the Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence at St Andrews in Scotland from 2000-2002.
He assisted the US to build the Vigilance Vessel Profiling System to prevent a maritime 9/11. After reviewing NYPD counter terrorism capabilities, he worked with David Cohen to train the NYPD Intelligence Division personnel to secure the city.
He was head hunted by the Ministry of Defence of Singapore to build the counter terrorism education and training capacity at the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies that evolved into the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at the Nanyang Technological University.
Starting as a program on July 15, 2002, Gunaratna established Singapore’s International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research (ICPVTR) to train the next generation of national security scholars and professionals with expertise in counter terrorism.
To curb the spread of Al Qaeda and Islamic State ideologies in Asia, ICPVTR rapidly educated, trained, resources and mentored leaders that joined government, industry, and academia.
Among his students are General Prof. Tito Karnavian, Minister of Home Affairs of Indonesia; Hekmat Karzai, former deputy foreign minister of Afghanistan; Prof Adam Dolnik, Professor of Counterterrorism at the George C. Marshall Center for European Security Studies in Germany and Professor of Terrorism Studies at the University of Wollongong in Australia; Dr Jolene Jerard, Executive Director, Centinel; Dr Khuram Iqbal, Head of the Department of International Relations, National Defence University, Pakistan; and Dr Syed Adnan Bukhari, Assistant Professor at the Homeland Security program of Rabdan Academy, UAE.
Throughout his adult life, Gunaratna undertook challenging assignments including in Iraq and Afghanistan. He worked with dedicated men and women to overcome national, regional and global challenges.
They excelled academically and professionally eventually holding key appointments. To share their insight and foresight, he engaged political leaders including the defence ministers and home ministers as well as chiefs of military forces, law enforcement authorities and intelligence services.
At the request of the Indonesian Minister of Defence Ryamizard Ryacudu, Gunaratna architectured ASEAN Our Eyes, the regional intelligence sharing system after the Islamic State siege of Marawi in 2017.
Rohan’s early life was shaped by a profound connection to the sea, where he dedicated time to studying whales, dolphins and the dugong.
A connoisseur of the arts and antiquities, he visited Mohenjo-daro, Tibet, Machu Picchu, Taxila, Xian, Dunhuang, Samarkand, Bukhara, Termez and Khiva.
In addition to meeting with Zahi Hawass during a visit to Luxor and Kyudzo Kato in Tashkent, he visited his ancestor Lucy in Ethiopia.
His favourite poet is Jalaludeen Rumi, a 13th century Persian and Sufi mystic. His favourite quote is,
“Not Christian or Jew or
Muslim, not Hindu,
Buddhist, Sufi, or Zen.
Not any religion or cultural system. I am not from the east
or the west, not
out of the ocean or up from the ground, not
natural or ethereal, not
composed of elements at all.
I do not exist, am not an entity in this
world or the next,
did not descend from
Adam and Eve or any origin story. My place is
the placeless, a trace
of the traceless.
Neither body or soul. I belong to the beloved,
have seen the two
worlds as one and
call to and know, first, last, outer, inner,
only that breath breathing human being.”