During the month of September, The UK’s Channel 4 broadcast a four-part fictional mini-TV series called The State portraying the life of two men, and two women from England migrating to the Islamic State in 2015.
The hardship of their trip, or how and why they decided to travel to IS territory isn’t explored in the beginning of the series, apart from Turkey’s apparent corruptness in allowing them to slip through the border. Once inside, the story follows the four main characters separately. After watching the first episode, it becomes evident that all the main characters have different motivations.
Shakira Boothe, a young black woman travelling with her 10-year-old son, wants to be a nurse in the Raqqa hospital. Ushna Kaleel, wants to be “a Lioness among the Lions” ie. She wants to get married. The men, Jalal Hussein is eager to find out what happened to his brother who he thought got martyred near Kobane. Lastly, Ziyaad Kader wants to fight Assad’s army.
Among the four of them, the last character would have had a deep story to tell. He was the only one who didn’t travel to the Islamic State for personal reasons, and became a suicide bomber by the third episode. Instead, the directors focused on Jalal, who found out that his brother wasn’t martyred after all, but killed by IS when trying to escape.
Jalal ends up saving two Yezidis (a mother and her daughter) from rape, before getting arrested and put into an Islamic State prison. Shakira, didn’t find any happiness either. She realizes that she can only work if she gets married. For this reason, a fake marriage is arranged with a gay doctor. When he’s killed, she escapes back to the UK. Kaleel’s new husband also dies in the battlefield, but she soon decides to remarry and stay.
If you had any knowledge of the Syrian civil war or the Islamic State before watching the show, you’d have your doubts how Channel 4 would pull-of something realistic and worthwhile at the same time. Realistically, the battle scenes, IS enthusiasm and hard-core violence all trickled down. The religious adrenalin of the fighters was well portrayed.
Was it worth your time? Not for me.
While watching the first episode I had my doubts about how much knowledge of Islam or the Islamic State the characters had. By the last episode, it was clear that all the characters had travelled there because of personal goals or out of simple naivety. Apart from the would-be suicide bomber Ziyaad, none of them cared much about the IS. In the end, Shakira smokes cigarettes with her gay husband, and Ziyaad tries to save as many innocents as he can.
The show would have helped the general audience to understand that most people who migrate have a deep affection with the Islamic State along with its rules and laws.
Instead, the image The State gives us, is that those who go there most likely become disillusioned.
Surely, there are varying groups of migrants as portrayed in the show, but the vast-majority have gone there because of their religious beliefs.
The viewer would only know this if he or she understood the wars taking place in the Middle-East. The goal of the show wasn’t to educate the public (with more than 2 million viewers in the UK), but to have the biggest audience as possible. To do that, the directors romanticized the main actors, who we felt sorry for: “They didn’t know what they were getting into.”
Well… Most IS foreign recruits do.
And they’re happy to die while serving the Caliphate.
A story about them would’ve been worth my time.
However, the goal of the directors was to entertain Western audiences, and not spread general knowledge on the topic.
But, even if the scenario of this series is in the end politically correct, it seems the western media, faithful to their editorial line, decided to stay away from it after only two diffusions, the first on Channel 4 in the UK, and a second on Canal+ in France. Not politically correct enough… perhaps.
Propaganda, how you hold us.