Beheading Videos Top Sellers in Iraq

Images of horror top sellers in Baghdad’s ‘thieves market’ (AFP)

Hostage throat-slitting videos rub shoulders with pornography in the stalls of central Baghdad’s infamous “thieves market”, as Islamic radicals immortalise their acts of terror in grisly films like Monday’s beheading of a US national. The latest video, posted on Monday night on an Islamic website, showed five masked gunmen reading out their Islamic verdict against their American captive Eugene “Jack” Armstrong and then slicing off the victim’s head as he cried out in pain.

Once such gory videos are posted on the Internet it does not take long for them to make their way to the packed stalls of central Baghdad’s Bab al-Sharqi marketplace where consumer appetite is hungry for bloody spectacle. In the teeming open-air market, television sets rigged to sound systems broadcast the sounds and sights of tortured hostages, belly dancers and pornographic movie stars. Shoppers can ask stallholders to play DVDs that catch their attention.

Behind a plastic case, a dull picture of a local singer on the cover, are concealed the grisly exploits of the Tawhid wal Jihad (Unity and Holy War) group of alleged Al-Qaeda operative Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi. The telltale sign is a little white rectangular sticker on the sleeve, on which is written by hand in Arabic, “Al-Assifa” (storm).

Given the interest that the videos continue to generate on the Internet in the U.S., I’m not sure that there’s anything to read into their popularity in Iraq. Still, it’s rather unsettling.

James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. […] ld cause even more Iraqis to turn against terrorists in their country. Perhaps instead of selling these videos as if they are black market DVD movies, Iraqis will put their foot down and s […]

  2. Bloviate Me says:

    It’s the bread-and-games spectacle of the Colosseum. Nothing changes much after 2,000 years.

  3. Beheading Videos Top Sellers in Baghdad
    I posted on this a couple of weeks ago, seems like the word is getting out. On the one hand at least there’s porn, not that I’m pro-porn, but it is a sign of secularization. On the other hand, porn…

  4. Brian J. says:

    Three words:
    Faces of Death.

    Two bonus words:
    Bum Fights.

    Why should Iraqis be less barbaric in their video tastes than Americans?

  5. Ben S. says:

    I am so sick of these Terrorists, if they murder another innocent civilian hostage then whoever they are demanding to be released must also be executed. An eye for an eye. Off with Dr. Germs’ head!!!

  6. Iraqi Freedom Fighter says:
  7. Sheikh Beheaded in Iraq
    – Associated Press (via Rusty Shackleford) CAIRO, Egypt – A videotape surfaced on the Internet Tuesday showing what was said to be the confession and beheading of an Arab Shiite Muslim, presumably Iraqi, who was accused of serving the U.S….