Iraq bans terror prank shows after outcry over program that staged ISIS kidnappings of celebrities

A TV show which sparked outrage in Iraq after featuring fake ISIS fighters who ‘kidnap’ celebrities, strap fake suicide vests to them, and tell them they will be executed has been banned. 

Regulators said the program, and a second show, Tony’s Bullet, breached broadcast rules after viewers complained the Ramadan prank show was in bad taste, particularly as militant violence is still prevalent in Iraq.  

In the prank show ‘Rislan’s Shooting’, terrified celebrities were taken to visit Iraqi families who they believed had been displaced after fleeing from extremists.

But once there, the duped participants were ambushed by fake jihadists and told they would be killed – until ‘troops’ came to the rescue and brought their ordeal to an end.

In one show, comic actress Nessma passed out with fear after being fitted with a fake suicide vest and was only brought round when the presenter poured water on her face. 

In another episode, Iraq international footballer Alaa Mhawi, who has played 44 times for his country, was blind-folded and filmed begging for his life. 

What looked like a close shave was, in fact, a candid camera-style television show airing during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan which took tricking celebrities for laughs to a new level.

A TV show in Iraq which sparked outcry after featuring fake ISIS fighters 'kidnapping' celebrities and telling them they will be executed has been banned. In one episode, an actress in her 50s named as Nessma (pictured), was blindfolded and fitted with a fake suicide vest

A TV show in Iraq which sparked outcry after featuring fake ISIS fighters 'kidnapping' celebrities and telling them they will be executed has been banned. In one episode, an actress in her 50s named as Nessma (pictured), was blindfolded and fitted with a fake suicide vest

A TV show in Iraq which sparked outcry after featuring fake ISIS fighters ‘kidnapping’ celebrities and telling them they will be executed has been banned. In one episode, an actress in her 50s named as Nessma (pictured), was blindfolded and fitted with a fake suicide vest

The actress is led away by two men after having a fake suicide vest strapped to her

The actress is led away by two men after having a fake suicide vest strapped to her

The actress is led away by two men after having a fake suicide vest strapped to her 

She passed out outside after she believed she was walking through gunfire and explosions and had to be splashed with water to wake up

She passed out outside after she believed she was walking through gunfire and explosions and had to be splashed with water to wake up

She passed out outside after she believed she was walking through gunfire and explosions and had to be splashed with water to wake up

The actress Nessma (pictured) thought she was visiting a family who had been displaced by ISIS conflict

The actress Nessma (pictured) thought she was visiting a family who had been displaced by ISIS conflict

The actress Nessma (pictured) thought she was visiting a family who had been displaced by ISIS conflict

International footballer Alaa Mhawi (pictured on the floor) pleads with his apparent captors as they point a gun in his face

International footballer Alaa Mhawi (pictured on the floor) pleads with his apparent captors as they point a gun in his face

International footballer Alaa Mhawi (pictured on the floor) pleads with his apparent captors as they point a gun in his face

Mhawi believes he is dodging gunfire and explosions while wearing a suicide vest as he is escorted out of the building

Mhawi believes he is dodging gunfire and explosions while wearing a suicide vest as he is escorted out of the building

Mhawi believes he is dodging gunfire and explosions while wearing a suicide vest as he is escorted out of the building

Mhawi, a professional footballer and father-of-one, has been capped 44 times by Iraq and plays in the Iraqi Super League and believed he had signed up for a charity show

Mhawi, a professional footballer and father-of-one, has been capped 44 times by Iraq and plays in the Iraqi Super League and believed he had signed up for a charity show

Mhawi, a professional footballer and father-of-one, has been capped 44 times by Iraq and plays in the Iraqi Super League and believed he had signed up for a charity show

In each episode, a celebrity, invited for a charitable project, visits the home of a family said to have escaped the clutches of the ISIS.

Once inside, actors disguised as jihadists pounce. The jihadists may be fake, but the pleas of the trapped celebrities are very real.

In one show featuring Nessma, an actress in her fifties, she enters the home of a family she believes has been forced to flee from conflict before a fake explosion goes off, forcing everyone to run inside screaming.

While she panics with a group of actors in on the prank, gunshots are heard and one of the supposed producers on the show picks up a gun in view of Nessma.

Car loads of gun-wielding and ISIS flag waving jihadists then arrive and surround the home as gunshots appear to ricochet off the walls.

They eventually storm the home and tie up Nessma and blindfold her while she cries and screams for help and starts to pray.

Nessma fainted after being blindfolded, tied up and strapped to a suicide vest as she was ambushed by the terrorists

Nessma fainted after being blindfolded, tied up and strapped to a suicide vest as she was ambushed by the terrorists

Nessma fainted after being blindfolded, tied up and strapped to a suicide vest as she was ambushed by the terrorists

She had to be awoken by water being splashed on to her face but the prank continued despite her fears

She had to be awoken by water being splashed on to her face but the prank continued despite her fears

She had to be awoken by water being splashed on to her face but the prank continued despite her fears

She stayed unconscious for several minutes until the presenter, in Hashed uniform, emptied a bottle of water on her face

She stayed unconscious for several minutes until the presenter, in Hashed uniform, emptied a bottle of water on her face

She stayed unconscious for several minutes until the presenter, in Hashed uniform, emptied a bottle of water on her face

The terrified actress, pictured with a fake suicide vest, was terrified and kept praying and screaming as she was led outside

The terrified actress, pictured with a fake suicide vest, was terrified and kept praying and screaming as she was led outside

The terrified actress, pictured with a fake suicide vest, was terrified and kept praying and screaming as she was led outside 

The actress screamed as she woke up after fainting for a second time while surrounded by gunfire

The actress screamed as she woke up after fainting for a second time while surrounded by gunfire

The actress screamed as she woke up after fainting for a second time while surrounded by gunfire

Nessma is seen being told of the prank as the actors playing jihadis applaud her for going through the ordeal

Nessma is seen being told of the prank as the actors playing jihadis applaud her for going through the ordeal

Nessma is seen being told of the prank as the actors playing jihadis applaud her for going through the ordeal

Nessma is relieved as she is told the true nature of the TV show after believing she had been captured by terrorists

Nessma is relieved as she is told the true nature of the TV show after believing she had been captured by terrorists

Nessma is relieved as she is told the true nature of the TV show after believing she had been captured by terrorists 

The terrorists attach a suicide vest to her, prompting her to pass out on the floor with fear. 

She stays unconscious for several minutes until the presenter, in Hashed uniform, empties a bottle of water on her face before dragging her outside to continue the horrifying prank. 

Still blindfolded, she believes she is walking through gunfire while her suicide vest is about to explode.

At the last second, her vest and blindfold is removed and she faints once again, needing water thrown at her face to rouse her as the cast and crew gathered around her applaud her and reveal the prank. 

When the Iraq international right-back Alaa Mhawi appeared on the show, he found himself on the ground, blindfolded, begging for his life.

‘I’m your brother, I’m Iraqi and I represent the whole nation,’ he shouts, on the verge of tears. 

The series is underwritten by the powerful state-sponsored Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary coalition. The participants believed real gunfire was going off around them (pictured)

The series is underwritten by the powerful state-sponsored Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary coalition. The participants believed real gunfire was going off around them (pictured)

The series is underwritten by the powerful state-sponsored Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary coalition. The participants believed real gunfire was going off around them (pictured)

Footballer Mhawi begged for his life as he believed he was about to be executed by terrorists in the TV show (pictured)

Footballer Mhawi begged for his life as he believed he was about to be executed by terrorists in the TV show (pictured)

Footballer Mhawi begged for his life as he believed he was about to be executed by terrorists in the TV show (pictured)

He was also strapped to a suicide vest as gunshots appeared to go off right next to his head while he was pleading for mercy.

At the end of his episode, the international footballer also had to suffer a professional putdown.

‘You fly the Iraqi flag on the football pitch, but the Hashed, the army and police, they do it by sacrificing martyrs,’ the presenter said. 

But once the ruse is revealed, the celebrities can’t complain too much.

The series is underwritten by the powerful state-sponsored Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary coalition.

Its fighters were central to a grinding military campaign that by mid-2017 had dislodged IS from the string of cities it seized three years earlier. 

And these paramilitaries, still armed, have their own role in the show, saving the day. 

The candid camera-style television show airs during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Pictured: an actor playing a jihadi with a fake rocket launcher

The candid camera-style television show airs during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Pictured: an actor playing a jihadi with a fake rocket launcher

The candid camera-style television show airs during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Pictured: an actor playing a jihadi with a fake rocket launcher

'This isn't entertainment,' Bilal al-Mosuli, a resident of Mosul, the self-proclaimed 'capital' of IS in Iraq from 2014 to 2017, wrote on Twitter. Pictured: car loads of terrorists waving ISIS flags arrive at the house

'This isn't entertainment,' Bilal al-Mosuli, a resident of Mosul, the self-proclaimed 'capital' of IS in Iraq from 2014 to 2017, wrote on Twitter. Pictured: car loads of terrorists waving ISIS flags arrive at the house

‘This isn’t entertainment,’ Bilal al-Mosuli, a resident of Mosul, the self-proclaimed ‘capital’ of IS in Iraq from 2014 to 2017, wrote on Twitter. Pictured: car loads of terrorists waving ISIS flags arrive at the house

The programme also broadcasts mock executions and shootings 'with blanks', according to a disclaimer at the start. Pictured: the family's home the celebrities believe they are visiting before it is stormed by jihadis

The programme also broadcasts mock executions and shootings 'with blanks', according to a disclaimer at the start. Pictured: the family's home the celebrities believe they are visiting before it is stormed by jihadis

The programme also broadcasts mock executions and shootings ‘with blanks’, according to a disclaimer at the start. Pictured: the family’s home the celebrities believe they are visiting before it is stormed by jihadis

‘This isn’t entertainment,’ Bilal al-Mosuli, a resident of Mosul, the self-proclaimed ‘capital’ of IS in Iraq from 2014 to 2017, wrote on Twitter.

Another Iraqi, Ahmed Abderradi, expressed disbelief at the show on Facebook.

‘Next year, we’ll have Saddam’, he joked bitterly, referring to the dictator who terrorised Iraqis from 1979 to 2003, Saddam Hussein.

‘Or we can throw guests into a river like the victims of Speicher,’ he wrote, referring to the 2014 Camp Speicher massacre, when IS executed 1,700 Shiite conscripts and dumped their bodies in the Tigris. 

For years, entrapping stars has become a staple of primetime Ramadan shows on Arab satellite channels.

But this is the first time an Iraqi programme has combined the formula with ‘terrorism’, which is still a real threat in Iraq.

‘I don’t see what pleasure you could get watching these people being tortured in this way,’ another viewer wrote on social media.

The programme also broadcasts mock executions and shootings ‘with blanks’, according to a disclaimer at the start.

For others, however, the show salutes anti-IS fighters.

‘But it’s possible to show the bravery of the Hashed and Iraqi troops without introducing terrorism,’ tweeted Noor Ghazi, an Iraqi living in the United States.

Jihadist violence is still a fact of life in Iraq.

The home of the so-called displaced family in the show is located in the agricultural belt outside Baghdad where IS sleeper cells still intimidate and extort locals.

According to social media user Hamed al-Daamy, ‘the show is giving free advertising to IS and other terrorist groups’.

A writer of the show, Dargham Abu Rghif, has sprung to its defence.

‘The scenes are harsh but… if IS had won, artists would have had a far harder life, and all Iraqis too,’ he wrote on Facebook.

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