Islamic State japes: TV pranks spark Iraqi anger

Iraqi actress Nessma is on her way to receiving the shock of her life.

Told she'll deliver aid to a family displaced by war on the outskirts of Baghdad, she instead falls prey to what seems to be a jihadist ambush.

But is in fact a prank.

Blindfolded and wrapped in a fake suicide belt - apparently fainting at one point - Nessma is "rescued" by a guy in military fatigues.

That's television presenter Reslan Haddad, and his show, consisting of 25 similar episodes for broadcast over Ramadan, is drawing disgust on social media - under the hashtag "stop the Tannab Reslan show".

Haddad explained his thinking from his living room in the Iraqi capital.

"The guest, after being blindfolded and after Islamic State comes in, she experiences that terror so that she, as well as the audience, see how it was for people. Some people can't see that."

Nessma confirmed she wasn't in on the prank.

In the shot following the staged attack, she even calls out to her deceased brother, who Haddad said, quote, "died as a martyr."

"Aysar, I'm coming to you," she says.

Nessma's episode has so far received more than a million views on YouTube.

But writer and activist Resli al-Maliki fears what it could trigger in viewers, in a nation traumatized by such events.

"To be honest, violence in our society is born of such practices. A violent society is created by violent media. What does a program like this achieve? It achieved a hashtag on Twitter, angry, and violent reactions. Yes, the views may be high, but that's curiosity, that's normal, people want to find out what all the fuss is about."

Critics on Twitter point out that thousands of Iraqis still suffer from the aftermath of the war against Islamic State. Many are displaced and still unable to return home.

Haddad says the show aims to praise the security forces - he used real ones rather than actors in the show - and to convey their sacrifices in the battle with I.S.

But opponents say it insults them and ordinary Iraqis.

Haddad says it could have been worse.

"By the way there were a lot of details, things that I wanted to do to the guests, but I was scared for them. Much more terrifying things. If I were to portray what really happened to the families, to the people, then guests would have died."

Nessma manages a smile when it's over. She told Reuters later that she was proud to have been part of Tannab Reslan, because it shows what the Iraqis went through.