What do the two men pictured have in common? Yes, both are smiling and wear the same dreamy, faraway expression. Their eyes are glazed over as well, but that is because they are dead.
The pictures, which might be captioned “So that’s what having 70 virgins is like!” are of “martyrs” and represent the latest marketing tool of international jihadi organizations that have established a toehold in the Syrian civil war on the rebel side.
Ynet reports that the pictures show the ineffable joy volunteers reportedly experienced after making the ultimate sacrifice on the field of battle.
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The images of the smiling dead are posted to popular social networks like Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, and Instagram for maximum distribution; web users are asked to celebrate the death of the ‘heroic fighters.’
Web users who are interested in joining the fighting in Syria on the side of jihadi organizations are invited for a job interview through Skype. During the course of the interview they receive expert advice on military tactics and combat. Global Jihad uses the network not only to recruit rebels for the Syrian civil war, but also to collect donations with people who support its agenda – according to the Middle East center for scientific studies, which tracks social media and internet usage.
If you’re not already sufficiently creeped out by the macabre images, maybe you will be by the knowledge that those frowns-turned-upside-down didn’t necessarily get there by themselves. What’s more is the staged photos — all part of a kindler, gentler approach to recruiting martyrs — are getting results.
The article notes that one 23-year-old from Gaza, Muhammad al-Zahanin, was so inspired by the opportunity to fulfill the hajj — the pilgrimage to Mecca, which is one of the five pillars of Islam — that he headed off to battle without a word to his family. His mother told Ynet, “My son left on June 13 without informing us, but called the next day to say he was in Saudi Arabia performing the hajj, and that he would return in 20 days.”
He wasn’t. On Sept. 2, he killed himself in a suicide bombing in Syria, which he viewed as commandment of jihad for Allah. Soon after, his smiling visage appeared online, along with a video of his corpse and that another suicide bomber put out by the Salafi organizations in Gaza. A voiceover reads Al-Zahanin’s purported tacit will: “I ask of my god the highest level of martyrdom.”
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