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Who was Mohammed Emwazi? This month, HBO’s new documentary Unmasking Jihadi John: Anatomy of a Terrorist will attempt to answer this complex question which carries a lot of depth and can be difficult to explain.
How did Mohammed Emwazi become one of the world’s most wanted terrorists? How did this child turn into the leader of executioners in ISIS? How did a college student living in London end up being a terrorist who filmed himself taking the lives of hostages?
Se dio a conocer en 2014 por una serie de videos donde él era el atroz protagonista. Para ese momento, sin embargo, no tenía nombre, sino que era una figura enmascarada y vestida de negro a la que apenas se le veían los ojos.
He became known in 2014 through a series of videos for which he was the atrocious lead. At the time he possessed no identity; he was only a masked figured dressed in black and eyes barely visible. The first of these videos, uploaded on YouTube on August 19th, 2014, showed the decapitation of an ISIS hostage; the American journalist James Foley. Less than a month later, on September 2nd - a new video was uploaded, this time the assassination of journalist Steve Stoloff. These would be followed by other equally horrific videos in which reporters and humanitarian aid workers were murdered: David Haines, Alan Henning, Abdul-Rahman Kassig and Japanese reporter Kenji Goto.
Each video contained the following: speaking directly to the camera, making demands and throwing diatribes at the West, and in each death scene is this man; the spokesperson and executioner on behalf of the Islamic Caliphate. The press began naming him “Jidhahist John;” due to his polite manner and clear British accent. The name John is based on John Lennon and since the other three men also had British accents, they were dubbed “The Beatles.”
Jihadist John became one of the main targets of international security agencies albeit he was an elusive prey. He used the internet to leave messages, was the spokesperson for the Islamic State and as exposed and public as he was, he was difficult to apprehend. He became an expert in leaving no traces of him behind. Finally, after arduous investigations and a relentless manhunt, he was found in 2015 and killed by a drone missile in Raqqa, northern Syria.
It was then that the world would know the name of Mohammed Emwazi, who at six years of age arrived in northwest London with his parents from Kuwait. The world learned that he played football in his neighborhood, that as a teenager he was quiet and reserved, that he liked to wear hats and fashionable sports brands, that he harassed girls, that he was a mediocre student yet still managed to graduate from the University of Westminster with a computer science degree under a scholarship from the United Kingdom. That he visited Kuwait in 2009, only to be negated entry to the same country in 2013. That same year, he disappeared from his home in London and was not heard from until the British government notified his parents that he had secretly entered Syria.
Anthony Wonk, the film’s director and Richard Kerbaj, producer and investigative journalist, deliver to viewers Unmasking Jihadi John: Anatomy of a Terrorist; a detailed recollection of the life of Emwazi through the testimonies of his schoolteachers, surviving hostages, relatives of those executed by Emwazi and even agents and investigators from the security agency who had never made public the most secret details of the case.
Unmasking Jihadi John: Anatomy of a Terrorist presents never before seen material from Emwazi’s younger days as a student in London and explores his teenage years as a ridiculed and complex young man, who was carried away by the influences of extremists gangs. The film also uses Enwazi’s audios and unpublished material from the Islamic State; along with recreations of his own life.
It is a deep work that makes us question our role in civilization, what we are doing in the West in terms of our relationship with others - especially those who are not like us and loneliness itself; as we live in a market of consumption and continue to develop new ways of communication and alienation from each other. Emwazi, without pretending to justify it, is the most radical and frightening result of the evils of our times.
The question still remains: who was Mohammed Emwazi? Furthermore, how did Mohammed Emwazi become a fanatic assassin who despised Western civilization?
Do not miss Unmasking Jihadi John: Anatomy of a Terrorist this month on HBO and HBO GO.
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