A Baghdad Bombing by the Islamic State features thirty-eight-year-old Abu Jassim, an Iraqi interviewed in 2017 in Baghdad prison by Anne Speckhard and Ardian Shajkovci and edited by our ICSVE video editors. It highlights how ISIS, and groups like ISIS, are proclaiming over the Internet and through face-to-face recruitment that violence and terrorist attacks can bring rights to Sunni Iraqis.
As the father of six children, Abu Jassim became convinced that ISIS could restore Sunni dominance in Iraq and agreed to serve the group. They called upon him to drive two suicide bombers into central Baghdad where they exploded themselves after he had driven away. Abu Jassim did not think much at the time about the acts he was involving himself in, but now that he is in prison serving a life sentence he has had time to reflect.
Now, Abu Jassim regrets his actions and wishes he had not left his wife and children without their father. He begs her forgiveness. He also fears that Allah may never forgive him, although he prays daily for forgiveness. He fears that he may be ultimately cast into hell.
Abu Jassim advises his own children, as well as other Iraqi and international youth, to avoid networks of hate that are active on the social media platforms of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Telegram. He also advises them to avoid “bad friends” and those that would bring trouble into their lives.
We learn in Abu Jassim’s story how experiencing real, or perceived, sectarian oppression can drive a person into violence if a terrorist group is active spreading promises of hope and offering the opportunity to take action. Abu Jassim says he did it partly for money, but more out of religious beliefs that were manipulated by the group. Now with time to reflect, he admits that the Islam of ISIS is not what it should be and that killing innocents is not part of his religion. He also states that he joined the group partly out of the overwhelming pressures he was feeling in his life. His words underline the importance of government’s responsibility to not let ethnic or sectarian segregation and oppression spread in the country and for religious leaders to counter religious claims of “martyrdom”, jihad, and so on that manipulate some into participating in terrorist violence thinking it is a legitimate way to struggle for political rights.
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Working for the Islamic State
Working for the Islamic State features twenty-nine year old Abu Hashim, an imprisoned former ISIS driver interviewed in Baghdad by Anne Speckhard and Ardian Shajkovci in January of 2018. This counter narrative video clip is produced by the ICSVE team and underlines the costs of getting involved with ISIS.
Abu Hashim begins the video telling how he delivered bomb-rigged vehicles for ISIS, after which they were used in suicide attacks. He coldly states that he did it for the money and didn’t care about the carnage they caused. After driving for ISIS more than once, he became trapped into working further for them as they threatened to expose him if he tried to stop. Each of the four times that Abu Hashim delivered vehicles he was paid approximately $125, money he used to buy things he needed for living. He says he kept his activities secret from his girlfriend who would have left him had she known.
Abu Hashim tried to join the flow of refugees going to Germany but didn’t manage it and was arrested instead. While he states that he didn’t concern himself with the explosions and deaths caused by the car bombs he delivered, he later admits that he did suffer serious posttraumatic effects. He was racked with guilt and obsessive thoughts about what had happened, was unable to sleep and lost weight. When he did sleep, he would wake choking and terrified. Filled with remorse, Abu Hashim fears that Allah will not forgive him.
He now refers to ISIS as murderers and warns the viewer not to join as the result is only killing, blood and bombing, saying that they were incapable of creating a real state. He asks the viewer if he is okay with killing, and warns again not to join—the result will be either prison or death.
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