An Iraqi state television station is now airing a nationally televised parody series that directly mocks Islamic State militants and acts as an anti-ISIS propaganda tool, hoping to prevent more people from joining the jihadist movement.
The first episode of the 30-part comedy series "State of Myths" aired last weekend on the Iraqi owned al-Iraqiya television station. Set in a fictional Iraqi town that has been seized by ISIS, the show makes fun of the militants and their followers and symbolizes the Islamic State as if it had spawned from the devil.
The show's chief supervisor, Thayer Jiyad, said that the show's aim is to alleviate the widespread fear surrounding the group.
"[The show's goal] is to remove this phobia that has taken root in a lot of people's mind[s]," Jiyad told Agence France Presse.
The television station released a three-plus minute video trailer earlier this month that had been playing multiple times a day on Iraqi television leading up to the debut on Saturday. The trailer is essentially in the style of a music video and ridicules ISIS followers as being town drunks or fools. The Telegraph reports that the melody of the music video is a parody of the Islamic State's anthem.
However, the trailer also feeds into a widely held belief that the U.S., Qatar and Israel are secretly behind the creation of ISIS.
The music video features a Satanic character in a devil suit leading an army of other devil-suited characters into the fictional town. An American cowboy is there with his horse to excitedly greet Satan and his brigade. The cowboy then leads Satan to marry a Jewish bride who has a star of David wrapped around her neck to show her connection to Israel. At the wedding celebration is a woman wearing a bright green suit and sunglasses representing the first lady of Qatar, Sheikha Mozah.
According to Middle East Media Research Institute translation of the Arabic song lyrics, Satan sings after the wedding "we will name our child ISIS."
"Summon him. Tell him to slaughter the people. Summon him. Tell him to toy with religion," the devil sings.
An egg hatches and a character dressed as ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi emerges. The scene ends with al-Baghdadi shooting and killing everyone with a handgun.
But with the U.S. and its international coalition conducting airstrikes to help defeat ISIS, Thaer al-Hasnawi, deputy manager of the Iraqi Media Network, told The Washington Post that the show will no longer be taking shots at the U.S. and Arab allies.
"The relationship with the Gulf countries and others became better and we didn't want to do anything to affect that in a negative way," al-Hasnawi said.
Ali Al-Qassem, the show's director, told AFP that the show provides an outlet for him and the rest of the artists involved to contribute toward the defeat of the Islamic state.
"We all have a duty to defend this country," al-Qassem said. "We are not good at using weapons but we can also help defeat ISIS through our work."
Given the nature of the show and real and present threat that ISIS militants hold having beheaded and tortured those they captured, the scriptwriter and many of the actors and actresses on the show have chosen to remain anonymous.
"We encountered many difficulties, notably when some of the artists were too afraid to take part in the shooting out of security concerns," al-Qassem said.
One actor on the show told The Washington Post that his reasoning for joining the show was because he had already lost two children to extremist violence.
"For me, it's personal," actor Taha Alwan said. "It might be dangerous, but we need to send a message of how ugly these people are."