LONDON: A prank TV show in Iraq has sparked outrage after featuring fake Daesh fighters who kidnap celebrities, strap fake suicide bombs to their chest and threaten the celebrities with execution.
The controversial program, called “Tanb Raslan,” invited celebrities to visit displaced Iraqi families who supposedly fled the clutches of the extremist terrorist group. As participants arrive at the alleged house, they are ambushed with actors disguised as Jihadist fighters who immediately threatened to kill them.
Celebrities were then blindfolded and fake suicide bombs were strapped to their chest. Unknown to the participants that their surroundings are fictitious, they were shown on their knees and get emotional all while the cameras are rolling.
Iraqi footballer Alaa Mhawi became tearful and pleaded for his life while Nessma, a 58-year-old Iraqi actress, lost consciousness after the fake explosive belt was strapped to her.
Playfully entrapping celebrities has become a staple of primetime Ramadan TV shows in Iraq. However, this program, in particular, attracted criticism, considering Daesh and extremist violence still remain a real threat in the country.
The show is reportedly underwritten by the state-sponsored Hashd Al-Shaabi paramilitary, whose fighters helped expel Daesh fighters from Iraqi cities. These paramilitaries, still armed, have their own role in the TV show and are portrayed as heroes saving the day.
In the show, the homes of the alleged displaced families are located in the agricultural belt outside of Baghdad where Daesh sleeper cells still roam and extort locals.
Many Iraqi viewers took to social media to criticize the TV show.
“This is not entertainment,” Bilal Al-Mosuli, a resident of Mosul, wrote on Twitter.
Ahmed Abderradi expressed disbelief at the show after it made a tongue-in-cheek reference to Saddam Hussein, the dictator who terrorized Iraqis from 1979 to 2003.
“Or we can throw guests into a river like the victims of Speicher,” Abderradi wrote on Twitter, referring to the 2014 Camp Speicher massacre when Daesh executed 1,700 Shiite conscripts and dumped their bodies into the Tigris.
For others, however, the show saluted anti-Daesh fighters with a slight reservation.
“But it is possible to show the bravery of the Hashd Al-Shaabi and Iraqi troops without introducing terrorism,” Noor Ghazi, an Iraqi living in the US, wrote on Twitter.
A writer on the show, Dargham Abu Rghif, defended the program: “The scenes are harsh but if Daesh had won, artists would have had a far harder life. And all Iraqis, too.”