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Iraq's Popular Reality TV Show Forces Convicted Terrorists to Face Their Victims' Families

'In the Grip of the Law' makes the perpetrators of Iraqi terror attacks publicly confess, then face the relatives of their victims, at the scene of their crimes.
Image via AP/Hadi Mizban

An Iraqi television show is forcing perpetrators convicted of carrying out terror attacks — many of whom are affiliated with the so-called Islamic State — to publicly confess and face relatives of their victims.

In the Grip of the Law is screened by the the government-run Al Iraqiya satellite network and produced in conjunction with Iraqi authorities.

Convicted terrorists wearing fluorescent yellow jumpsuits and shackles are paraded in front of the camera, often at the scene of an attack. Host Ahmed Hassan then interrogates them about the details of their offenses and involvement with the Islamic State. Footage from the immediate aftermath of bombings is also shown along with evidence, such as fingerprints and DNA samples, said to prove their guilt.


Families of those killed in the attacks are then brought in to confront the prisoners.

"If it wasn't for all these people around, I'd eat you alive… you're a coward, you destroyed our lives… You burned down the little we owned, you're a bastard, a bastard… our family, our children, our friends are all dead," shouts one man at the perpetrator of an attack in footage subtitled by France 24.

Many of the convicts appear cowed and silent. One, named as Hamza, tearfully described the month and a half that he says he spent with the Islamic State.

The show is also hugely popular. Around 9 million people tune in every week, according to France 24.

The Islamic State overran large parts of northern Iraq earlier this year, routing numerically superior government forces in a series of embarrassing defeats that saw soldiers stripping off their uniforms and fleeing into Iraqi Kurdistan. Some later told VICE News that they had been abandoned by their senior officers and left without supplies.

Car bomb attacks have taken place on a near daily basis in Iraq for years, particularly in the capital of Baghdad, and are often perpetrated by Sunni insurgents. Many of these groups are now affiliated with the Islamic State.

Government and Iraqi Kurdish forces are now making slow military progress against the Islamic State. However, as In the Grip of the Law evidences, a media offensive also appears to be well underway.


Hassan told the Associated Press that his show offers clear evidence of each terrorist's guilt. "Through surveillance videos, we show how the accused parked the car, how he blew it up, how he carries out an assassination… We show our audiences the pictures, along with hard evidence, to leave no doubts that this person is a criminal and paying for his crimes."

The host added that all participants had confessed their crimes to a judge, so it was "impossible" that any could have been wrongly convicted.

However, concerns about the Iraqi justice system have been raised in the past. In a September statement, Amnesty International said that "many accused of terrorism have been convicted and sentenced to long prison terms and even to death on the basis of 'confessions' extracted under torture."

A number of suspected IS members may also have been summarily executed. Dozens of prisoners have died while being transferred to jails in the Baghdad area. The official version of events often says that convoys are attacked by militants. However, security sources are often quoted as saying that they were in fact killed by police.

Follow John Beck on Twitter: @JM_Beck