This Controversial Instagram Account Lets You Decide Whether ‘ISIS Fighters’ Live Or Die

news
Screen grab from Instagram

Editor's note: This post contains graphic content.


The unfiltered photo posted on March 28, 2016 shows a disheveled man being dragged through the dirt by members of an Iraqi militia. The caption begins: “We have arrested one of isis in south of Mosul.”

But the man isn’t being dragged to a prison cell to await trial. His fate will be decided much quicker than that. In fact, it will be decided immediately — by you, the follower. “You can vote For (kill him or let him go),” the caption continues in botched English. “We will post his fate after one houer.”

Screen grab from Instagram

Hundreds of comments pour in immediately, many of them in English. The word “kill” pops up line after line. No mercy for this man. “On behalf of ALL red blooded americans,” someone writes, “give em the kill.”

Two hours later another photo is posted to the account with a simple caption: “Thanks for vote.” It’s a selfie taken by a member of the militia. Behind him the man from the previous photo lies face down on a concrete platform in a pool of blood.

Screen grab from Instagram

This is @iraqiswat, the Instagram account of what appears to be an Iranian-backed Shia militia currently operating in Iraq.

A quick scroll through the group’s feed reveals a running catalogue of life on the front line in the war against ISIS. There are countless videos of gun battles, triumphant group photos among the wreckage of captured towns, ISIS-bashing memes, hero shots of Abo Azrael (aka the “Iraqi Rambo”), and tributes to the fallen. There’s also the occasional diatribe, including one recent rant imploring American commenters to stop “trash talking” Iraqi troops.

Screen grab from Instagram

But the most popular posts are consistently the before/after photographs of men who were apparently tried, convicted, and sentenced to death by some of the account's nearly 75K followers. While Instagram states in the “community guidelines” section of its website that sharing “graphic images for sadistic pleasure or to glorify violence is never allowed,” it states elsewhere that the company “does not have any obligation to prescreen” content. Thus, many of the photos remain on the account before enough complaints force Instagram to take them down.

So who’s complaining? ISIS, apparently:

Screen grab from Instagram

At a time when combatants on all sides of the conflict are using social media to rally support and undermine their foes, trial by Instagram adds another, more troubling dimension to the mix. It transcends the digital sphere, giving people around the world an opportunity to play — or at least feel like they’re playing — a direct role in a war being waged in the remote villages and desert plains of the Middle East.

In theory, a guy on the toilet in Omaha, Nebraska, could emerge from the bathroom with the blood of some 18-year-old Syrian on his hands.  

How can anyone be certain that the men being summarily executed in these photos are actually ISIS fighters? They can’t. But it doesn’t matter, because Instagram isn’t a courthouse and these aren’t actual trials. It’s a game. And in this game there’s always only one outcome: “kill.”

Soldiers from the 1-118th Field Artillery Regiment of the 48th Infantry Brigade Combat Team fire an M777 Howitzer during a fire mission in Southern Afghanistan, June 10th, 2019. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jordan Trent)

Once again, the United States and the Taliban are apparently close to striking a peace deal. Such a peace agreement has been rumored to be in the works longer than the latest "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure" sequel. (The difference is Keanu Reeves has fewer f**ks to give than U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad.)

Both sides appeared to be close to reaching an agreement in September until the Taliban took credit for an attack that killed Army Sgt. 1st Class Elis A. Barreto Ortiz, of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division. That prompted President Donald Trump to angrily cancel a planned summit with the Taliban that had been scheduled to take place at Camp David, Maryland, on Sept. 8.

Now Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen has told a Pakistani newspaper that he is "optimistic" that the Taliban could reach an agreement with U.S. negotiators by the end of January.

Read More
Audie Murphy (U.S. Army photo)

Editor's note: a version of this post first appeared in 2018

On January 26, 1945, the most decorated U.S. service member of World War II earned his legacy in a fiery fashion.

Read More
A Purple Heart (DoD photo)

Florida's two senators are pushing the Defense Department to award Purple Hearts to the U.S. service members wounded in the December shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola.

Read More
Ships from Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 23 transit the Pacific Ocean Jan. 22, 2020. DESRON 23, part of the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group, is on a scheduled deployment to the Indo-Pacific. (U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Erick A. Parsons)

Editor's Note: This article by Gina Harkins originally appeared on Military.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

The Navy and Marine Corps need to be a bit more short-sighted when assessing how many ships they need, the acting Navy secretary said this week.

The Navy Department is in the middle of a new force-structure review, which could change the number and types of ships the sea services say they'll need to fight future conflicts. But instead of trying to project what they will need three decades out, which has been the case in past assessments, acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly said the services will take a shorter view.

"I don't know what the threat's going to be 30 years from now, but if we're building a force structure for 30 years from now, I would suggest we're probably not building the right one," he said Friday at a National Defense Industrial Association event.

The Navy completed its last force-structure assessment in 2016. That 30-year plan called for a 355-ship fleet.

Read More
Master-at-Arms 3rd Class Oscar Temores and his family. (GoFundMe)

When Oscar Jesus Temores showed up to work at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story each day, his colleagues in base security knew they were in for a treat.

Temores was a master-at-arms who loved his job and cracking corny jokes.

"He just he just had that personality that you can go up to him and talk to him about anything. It was goofy and weird, and he always had jokes," said Petty Officer 3rd Class Derek Lopez, a fellow base patrolman. "Sometimes he'd make you cry from laughter and other times you'd just want to cringe because of how dumb his joke was. But that's what made him more approachable and easy to be around."

That ability to make others laugh and put people at ease is just one of the ways Temores is remembered by his colleagues. It has been seven weeks since the 23-year-old married father of one was killed when a civilian intruder crashed his pickup truck into Temores' vehicle at Fort Story.

Read More