Syria's jihadists take on Flappy Bird with new low-tech games that target enemies in Iran and Saudi Arabia.
- By Michael PeckMichael Peck is an award-winning writer specializing in defense and national security issues. He holds an MA in political science from Rutgers University.
Virtual jihadists have found new targets, and for once, they’re not the United States or its allies. Two new online games from the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) organization depict Sunni fighters blowing up Iranians and attacking the Saudi Arabian government.
These aren’t exactly cutting-edge video games, but quick, simple designs that you play in your Web browser. Think Flappy Birds with suicide vests. The first one is called Sayyad al-Kasihat (Hunter of the Minesweepers). Your mission is to “repel the Iranian Persian aggression against Al-Sham [Syria] and Iraq,” according to a translation provided by the Middle East Media Research Institute, which spotted the game on a jihadist forum.
The goal is to blow up Iranian and Hezbollah tanks and jeeps rolling down a busy highway. However, civilian cars and yellow school buses also travel down the road. Plus, there is a delay (usually a half-second to two seconds) between clicking the black al Qaeda flag button that detonates the bomb and when it actually explodes. The trick is to time the explosion to destroy the Iranian military vehicles that roll past. If you do blow up civilians, this admonition appears: “Mujahid Brother, you have hurt the innocent civilians by mistake.”
Mind you, this comes from ISIS, whose fondness for beheading its opponents — even other Muslim militants — has led even al Qaeda to disavow it for being too violent in Syria. The game credits do come with this cheery note, however: “Greetings from the sharia committee of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham.”
For those jihadists who find detonating IEDs to be too challenging, there’s an even simpler game called Lu’bat Fajr Al-Huriyya Lil-‘Asira Al-Saudiyya (The Dawn of Freedom for the Saudi Woman Prisoner). The goal is to “free your sister from the Saudi regime’s prisons.”
Lucky for her that her brother happens to be a black-clad warrior (it’s hard to tell whether he’s supposed to be dressed like a ninja or an ISIS fighter). It’s about as low tech as you can get, though. At the click of a mouse, our two-dimensional ninjihadist leaps — with nary a bend of the knee — into the air, jumping from moving concrete beams like a real Prince of Persia. If you fall through the gaps, you’re dead. But, wait — that’s good news! “Congratulations, you have been martyred,” reads the game’s text.
These games are the brainchild of someone who goes by the online moniker of “Ta’ir Al-Nawras 07,” who posted them on the Ansar Al-Mujahideen Arabic Forum, according to MEMRI. Some might remember him as the designer of last year’s Muslim Mali online game, in which an al Qaeda fighter jet (that looks like a U.S. stealth fighter) shoots down waves of French warplanes. If Osama bin Laden hadn’t already been killed by American commandos, he probably would have died of embarrassment.
Yet even if these games don’t make the Video Game Hall of Fame, the change in tone is significant. Jihadist games have tended to focus on fighting the West, as in the Mali game or this video, in which enemy soldiers are decapitated by swords. But the Iran- and Saudi-themed games suggest that the conflict between Sunni extremists and Iran/Hezbollah and the Saudi monarchy are seeping into popular culture, or at least the culture that extremists inhabit.
Will we soon see a video games arms race? Don’t be surprised if a Hezbollah video game pops up in which Shiite heroes gun down al Qaeda fighters by the score.
In the meantime, America and the West can sit back watch their enemies wage war in the virtual world.