"This Bullet is for Me": Fighting to the Death Against IS

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January 15-17, 2015
Iraqi-Kurdistan

As IS continues its campaign of beheading and torture of its opponents and captives, many Kurdish Peshmerga fighters have made an oath never to be captured alive by IS forces. Some fighters now keep a suicide bullet for themselves to be used if they are about to be captured. This story explores the issue of suicide on the Kurdish frontlines of the battle against IS.

While suicide is strictly forbidden in both Islam and Christianity, many Kurdish fighters feel it is better to take one's own life than be subject to what they fear would be a brutal, merciless captivity and death at the hands of IS. Those interviewed say that the perceived brutality of IS obliges them to reconsider traditional attitudes to suicide.

Interviewees include two peshmerga fighters who both had their own close brushes with death whilst fighting IS. The first one is a hunter experienced in killing wolves and small game who brags that killing ISIS fighters is easier than shooting rabbits. The second one was wounded in battle with IS and is now recovering at home. His father is also interviewed and explains that he always tells his son to fight to the death against IS. Both fighters finish their interviews by explaining why suicide is preferable to capture.

Next, an imam explains the Koranic rules on suicide. Suicide is forbidden in Islam, but God might be more lenient on those who kill themselves in battle.

Finally we interview two fighters on the frontline.

Shotlist

  1. 00 00 - 00 05 Wide shot. Fade in. Foggy landscape
  2. 00 05 - 00 10 Wide shot, inside car, view on village road
  3. 00 11 - 00 17 Medium shot, Imad Kader Ahmad Hamd looking out the window whilst driving
  4. 00 18 - 00 25 Medium shot, Imad getting out of the car
  5. 00 26 - 00 29 Medium shot, Imad walks and talks
  6. 00 29 - 00 32 Close up, phone shows photos of hunted rabbits
  7. 00 33 - 00 36 Medium shot, Imad walks and talks
  8. 00 37 - 00 43 Wide shot, Imad gets out of car
  9. 00 43 - 00 47 Wide shot, Imad walks through his house
  10. 00 47 - 00 55 Medium shot, interview, Imad is seated in his living room
  11. 00 56 - 00 58 Close up, Imad's brother looking down
  12. 00 58 - 01 03 Medium shot, interview, Imad is seated in his living room
  13. 01 04 - 01 08 Close up, phone with photos of his fallen comrades
  14. 01 09 - 01 20 Medium shot, interview, Imad is seated in his living room
  15. 01 20 - 01 22 Medium shot, brothers of Imad
  16. 01 22 - 01 25 Close up, prayer beads in hands of brother
  17. 01 26 - 01 52 Medium shot, interview, Imad is seated in his living room
  18. 01 52 – 02 02 Extreme wide shot. Pan. Landscape.
  19. 02 02 – 02 06 Extreme wide shot. Sanhan Khelil Haji Rostan walks in garden.
  20. 02 06 – 02 10 Wide shot. Sanhan enters house.
  21. 02 10 -02 15 Wide shot. Living room. Sanhan hangs his walking stick.
  22. 02 16 – 02 29 Medium shot. Interview with Sanhan, seated
  23. 02 30 – 02 35 Wide shot. Khelil Haji Rostan (Father of Sanhan) enters the living room
  24. 02 36 – 02 42 Close up. Interview with Khelil
  25. 02 42 – 02 49 Close up to wide. Sanhan leaves house.
  26. 02 50 – 02 52 Wide shot. Sanhan enters shed.
  27. 02 52 – 02 56 Medium shot. Sanhan takes a jacket out of clozard
  28. 02 57 – 03 02 Close up. Sanhan shows bullet.
  29. 03 03 – 03 05 Medium wide. Sanhan and children leave shed.
  30. 03 06 – 03 08 Medium shot. Sanhan’s children play in the window
  31. 03 08 – 03 12 Medium wide shot. Haji Karwan, imam, enters room
  32. 03 13 – 03 25 Medium shot. Interview imam Haji karwan
  33. 03 25 – 03 28 Close up. Hands of imam.
  34. 03 29 – 03 40 Medium shot. Imam interview
  35. 03 40 – 03 45 Wide shot. Imad interview and landscape
  36. 03 46 – 03 49 Extreme wide shot. Landscape, brother places stone.
  37. 03 50 – 03 53 Medium wide shot. Imad shoots.
  38. 03 53 – 03 56 Close up. Stone explodes.
  39. 03 56 - 03 57 Medium shot. Imad moves gun.
  40. 03 58 – 04 05 Close up. Imad talks about bullet.
  41. 04 06 – 04 09 Medium shot. Inside car.
  42. 04 09 – 04 12 Wide shot. Landscape at frontline.
  43. 04 13 – 04 16 Close up. Saner Mohamed Mahmoud talks into walky talky.
  44. 04 17 – 04 24 Medium shot. Saner interview standing.
  45. 04 24 – 04 26 Medium shot. Fighter looks at sunset.
  46. 04 27 – 04 34 Medium shoot. Interview with unnamed fighter.
  47. 04 35 – 04 40 Wide shot to fade out. Bombed landscape around Sinjar mountain.

Script

  1. soundbite (Kurdish )
    Shavan Parwer , Singer : 00 02 05 – 00 05 07 I will take my gear and my weapon. 00 05 08 – 00 15 46 I will go to the frontline and start fighting. 00 15 31 – 00 23 13 If I don’t come back, Mom, don’t you cry.
  2. soundbite (Kurdish )
    Imad Kader Ahmad Hamd, Peshmerga fighter: 00 23 17 – 00 26 21 It’s very difficult, but if you can kill a rabbit you can kill ISIS. 00 27 25 – 00 31 03 The ISIS fighters are big, but a rabbit is smaller, maybe only 40 centimeters tall. 00 31 04 – 00 35 40 The ISIS fighter is maybe a meter and a half tall, so they’re easy to target… that’s how things are going down. 00 38 07 – 00 44 21 I was here with Rabin, Daham and Andam [at the frontline], but they ran away. 00 45 25 – 00 47 05 They were shaking and frozen still [because they were scared]. 00 47 06 – 00 50 17 We were attacked and I told them “get down, get down!" 00 51 06 – 00 52 34 When they got on the ground I said “you three leave." 00 53 02 – 00 54 05 The told me “come with us, let’s go," but I said “no, I’m staying."00 54 20 – 00 59 24 I was full of rage. I swear to God, they killed our [12] friends, so I had to kill some ISIS, and if I died doing it, so be it. 00 59 42 – 01 04 05 ISIS attacked me, but they couldn’t see me because I lay in the grass. 01 04 09 – 01 11 06 When the ISIS fighter stood up… he stood up and shot Amin and wounded him.01 11 08 – 01 11 29 The round hit him in the abdomen, but the bullet passed right through him because it was a tracer, and he wasn’t bleeding. 01 11 32 - 01 15 42 Amin was hit with another round though, and two or three ISIS fighters attacked me, but the bullets didn’t hit me… I could feel them pass by me on my clothes. 01 15 45 – 01 20 07 The ISIS fighter who I think was shooting at me stood up because he thought he had killed me, but then I shot him and he fell to the ground. 01 20 10 – 01 23 00 I shot the ISIS fighter and he fell to the ground. He had a long beard and a big white turban. 01 24 05 – 01 26 17 When he fell to the ground, another ISIS fighter ran to his side, but that fighter was a weakling. 01 27 03 – 01 30 47 Another ISIS fighter came too, and they wanted to rescue [the wounded ISIS] fighter. 01 31 28 – 01 36 00 They took away the wounded one in a car, and the weakling returned to fight us. 01 36 32 – 01 41 28 I shot him in the arm and he shouted something in Arabic, but I didn’t understand what he said. 01 41 46 – 01 46 20 When I shot him he ran away and three ISIS fighters came to him and I shot at them. They ducked for cover, and I ran away. 01 47 00 – 01 51 30 That skirmish [with ISIS] lasted for a day and two nights. I escaped back to my friends [at the outpost] Wednesday night.
  3. soundbite (Kurdish )
    Sanhan Khelil Haji Rostan, Peshmerga fighter: 02 06 39 – 02 14 00 They (ISIS) were right behind me [in the car]. They and the residents of the town of Rabea were chasing us. We were shooting everywhere. 02 14 24 – 02 20 08 Everywhere, we couldn’t hear ourselves over the gunfire. I was hit by a bullet in the thigh, and it passed through to my lower leg. 02 20 14 – 02 33 43 I tore off my pants… I tore off my pants and tied a scarf on the wound [to stop the bleeding]. I didn’t tell my friends I was hurt.
  4. soundbite (Kurdish)
    Khelil Haji Rostan, Father of Sanhan: 02 34 12 – 02 39 17 I told my son never to be taken captive. It can’t happen. Never be taken captive. If they capture you, you’re as good as dead. 02 39 44 – 02 42 36 Die like a man. Don’t be taken captive and let them kill you.
  5. soundbite (Kurdish)
    Sanhan Khelil Haji Rostan, Peshmerga fighter: 02 43 36 – 02 47 05 This is the way Peshmerga have always done it. 02 47 16 – 02 54 19 Never be taken captive. If they capture you, ISIS will dismember you, then kill you. 02 54 24 – 03 08 08 Killing yourself is better than letting them mutilate you. It’s better you kill yourself than let them film your death and your family seeing you die on the Internet.
  6. soundbite (Imam)
    Haji Karwan, Imam: 03 11 45 – 03 23 36 God’s judgment for someone who killed himself to defend his country is more lenient than his judgment on someone who just commits regular suicide, but it is still God’s role to decide. 03 24 09 – 03 41 45 God understands why a man kills himself to defend his country. On this topic, on Judgment Day, God will know what to do. Theologians can’t make this decision.
  7. soundbite (Kurdish)
    Imad Kader Ahmad Hamd, Peshmerga fighter : 03 42 04 – 03 49 46 ISIS was over there (about 500 meters away). 03 58 07 – 04 05 11 I will use this bullet to kill myself. I take 60 rounds [into battle], but this bullet’s for me.
  8. soundbite (Kurdish )
    Saner Mohamed Mahmoud, Peshmerga fighter: 04 15 04 – 04 25 03 If ISIS surrounds us, we will never be taken captive. Inshallah we will never be taken captive. We will fight to the death until the last bullet.
  9. soundbite (Kurdish)
    Unnamed, Peshmerga fighter: 04 26 00 – 04 36 18 If we’re taken captive… well… we’ll never be taken captive. In our hearts we know we will fight to our last breath, we (Kurdish) will forever fight. We’ll never be taken captive and inshallah we will succeed.