BBC’s ‘Real Housewives of ISIS’ makes a mockery of women who are raped, tortured and killed


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BBC’s ‘Real Housewives of ISIS’ makes a mockery of women who are raped, tortured and killed

#JihadiJane is no laughing matter

The BBC have just released a trailer for their new programme ‘Revolting’, which includes a mock-reality TV show sketch called ‘The Real Housewives of ISIS’. The trailer shows four young women, in hijabs and full black gowns, discussing their husbands and latest purchases of suicide jackets in a bombed, derelict room.

What at first seems like harmless satire, created to highlight the sheer absurdity of terrorist groups such as ISIS, quickly dwindles into a tasteless mockery of the real heart-breaking situation in war-torn countries such as Syria and Iraq.

As an advocate of free speech, I believe that when satire is used to highlight people’s idiocy in certain political contexts, it can be great. But there is satire and there is BBC’s new skit, which is essentially making a mockery of hundreds of women being violated, raped and tortured by the hands of ISIS.

‘The Real Housewives of ISIS’ is no laughing matter. The show portrays these women to be deluded to the point where they’re truly enjoying being part of a terrorist group. When the sad reality is that those girls and women travelling to the Middle East to join ISIS, must have been so desperate and ostracised by society, to be brainwashed by ISIS in the first place.

The wars in the Middle East have killed hundreds of thousand people, created a refugee crisis, and scarred many physically and mentally. To make a comedy sketch about a situation so grave, so impossible to understand unless you have experienced, it is an exceptionally insensitive move from the BBC.

I fear that in our current political context, when right-wing populism sweeps the Western world, there will be many who won’t fully understand, which parts of the show are satire and which are not. Although ISIS does not represent the large majority of Muslims in the slightest, this show may further enforce false stereotypes of Islam and its followers. The women in the sketch are dressed like many Muslim women around the world, who are not members of ISIS. But for some bigoted minds, this might be difficult to differentiate.

Of course, there is the argument that one of the best ways to stop young impressionable people from joining the likes of ISIS, is to make them look as ridiculous as possible. Also, making fun of something means that it is brought down to a level where you are not scared of it, which is exactly what the terrorists do not want.

However, the satire’s use of “crazy” and “senseless” characters to poke fun at ISIS, creates an illusion that those who are part of ISIS are uncivilised and worlds apart from us, the civilised. When the scariest thing of all is that they are also humans like us and are most likely a product of a conflict-ridden and divisive society.

Many of the victims of ISIS, including the girls that knew no better than to be tricked into the fake romantic image portrayed by members of ISIS on social media are suffering and being traded as human slaves. None of them are tagging their Instagrams with #JihadiJane and wondering if their latest suicide jacket makes them look fat.

I am all for satire, but not when there is a mockery of the victims and tragedies caused by ISIS.