A TV show in Iraq that lured guests into simulated ambushes by militants, forcing participants and viewers to experience some of the terror that was widespread under the rule of the so-called Islamic State group, has been ordered off air by the country’s media regulator.
The show’s cancellation followed widespread outrage from viewers.
The show is a form of reality TV and follows Iraqi celebrity guests, including actresses and football players.
They are invited to what is described as a “charity event” but then fall prey under various scenarios to a staged ambush by actors playing militants. They are later freed by other actors playing Iraqi security forces.
The show, Tannab Raslan, was being aired by the local Asia TV as a special during the holy month of Ramadan until Iraq’s Communication and Media Commission ordered it off the air.
The ambush re-enactments include fake weapons and stunt explosions while the “militants” threaten to detonate fake suicide vests. The show’s name refers to the name of its presenter, Raslan Haddad, and a popular Iraqi game that children play with marbles in which a score is called “tannab”.
Hidden cameras film everything – and the fear that grips the show’s guests is real. The show has raised ethics concerns and provoked outrage from angry viewers who said its content was highly offensive.
“The scenes bring back memories of Daesh once again,” said Baghdad resident Bashir al-Saddi, using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State group. “Frankly, this is not acceptable, it is inhuman and uncivilised.”
But some, like one of the show’s actors and presenter Haddad, said the cancelation was unfair as it also depicts the heroism of Iraqi security forces. “The decision is unjust,” he said.
In one the most controversial episodes, cameras followed Iraqi actress Nessma Tanneb as she is taken to a rural area outside Baghdad under the pretext of meeting a family liberated from IS rule.
Along the way, she is told at a mock checkpoint that the area they are about to enter is unsafe and was under attack by IS militants just three hours earlier. Tanneb is visibly concerned and asks to turn back but is ignored.
Once she is brought inside a house, an explosion is heard, and actors playing militants storm the building. Tanneb – who at this point is blindfolded – cries out, screams and eventually faints as actors playing Iraqi soldiers burst onto the scene and “liberate” her.