Skip to main content

Mideast activists ask: What about non-IS atrocities?

Commentators condemn Islamic State militants as medieval and barbaric, but question why non-IS atrocities receive so little attention
A huge screen reporting on Jordanian pilot Maaz al-Kassasbeh in Tokyo on 4 February, 2015 (AFP)

The gruesome video released by the Islamic State (IS) purportedly showing the burning alive of a Jordanian fighter pilot by the militant group in Syria was met with wide-scale condemnations and expressions of shock.

However, a number of commentators on social media - who find all of IS's actions to be disturbing - have been expressing dissatisfaction with the way many recent and ongoing atrocities committed in the Middle East are attracting less attention.

Some have also taken issue with the condemnations of the murder of the Jordanian pilot Muaz al-Kasasbeh by governments that have been allegedly committing or backing similar crimes, including the burning alive of opponents.   

The killing of Kasasbeh was condemned by a number of world leaders and organisations, including Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi and Egypt’s religious body al-Azhar.

Some pointed out that following the ousting of Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s first freely elected president, in July 2013, by the then Sisi-led military, a number of his supporters were burnt alive too.  

One commentator wrote: “Sisi condemns the burning alive of Jordanian pilot as a coward act, but what about these [pictured] massacres? Are they committed by the brave?”

Others also made references to what they perceive as the hypocrisy of al-Azhar’s government-appointed leaders, for condemning IS but not Sisi on the issue of burning opponents alive.

Al-Azhar’s grand imam, Ahmed al-Tayib, reiterated that “Islam forbids killing of the innocent human soul... It forbids mutilating the human soul by burning or in any other way even during wars against an enemy that attacks you.”

But what drew the attention of other commentators is his call for the "killing, crucifixion or chopping of the limbs" of IS militants.

Many commentators made references to Syria, where forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad were also reportedly involved in burning alive dissidents since the Arab Spring protests that began there in March 2011 were turned into a bloody civil war following a brutal government crackdown.

-

-

A number of activists took to social media to re-post videos that were filmed and shared previously, to make comparisons between inhumane acts allegedly committed by supporters of Assad and the recent IS execution.  

Many commentators also made references to US-led wars in the region, or beyond, where civilians - some of whom were also burnt to death - fell victim to American air power, most notably in Iraq.

In Iraq too, some also criticised the relatively muted response to atrocities committed by Iranian-backed Shiite militias, some of which have become de facto allies to the US-led coalition airstrikes against IS in Iraq and Syria.

Picture allegedly showing Shiite militiamen posing next to burnt bodies of Iraqis (Facebook)

The question of double standards also surfaced with regards to the high death toll of civilians in Gaza during Israel’s summer offensive, which received smaller official international condemnations. 

“Weren’t there cameras picturing thousands of people in Gaza as they [were] burnt by the rockets of the [Israeli] occupation?” Palestinian photojournalist Mohammed Asad asked rhetorically in a Facebook post, suggesting that world leaders cannot claim ignorance of what took place.  

One commentator summed up a number of incidents in a single tweet.