The Triangle of Death

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This film shows the Iraqi Army in a mission that led to the ISIL’s retreat form a region known as the Triangle of Death.

TIME CODE: 00:00_05:00

Narration: Along the Euphrates and the north of a road that connects the capital city of Iraq to Karbala, there is a city called Jorf Al-Sakhar; a city known for its palm groves and big artificial lakes. Over the past ten years, this city has been an unconquerable citadel for the most ruthless terrorist organizations in the world.  With the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003, this area turned into one of the main strongholds of al-Qaeda and the Ba’th Party. It was in this area that they orchestrated a series of terrorist operations in cities and areas in south Iraq, especially Baghdad and the road that connects Baghdad to Karbala; a series of terrorist operations, all under the cloak of Islam and jihad.  

SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Armed man: “Was there anyone who could confront them?  Was there anyone who dared to fight against them? Was there anyone who tried to prevent them? We are Muslims and we want to implement the religion of God on Earth.  There is no God but Allah.  The religion of God wouldn’t be implemented unless by weapons.”

Narration: In 2007, the US Army launched an operation to retake Jorf Al-Sakhar. The Army failed and lost a great number of its soldiers and equipment. In the end, this embarrassing defeat prompted the US to change its policies toward the enemy. Since then, the area became the safe haven for al-Qaeda and then ISIL terrorist groups. The area is a strategic point between Baghdad, Karbala and Fallujah that could have kept the flame of conflict alight in the region and the country for years to come; an area that later on became known as the triangle of death. Wednesday, October 22, 2014, Three Days before the Ashura Operation. The army headquarters is located on the bank of the Euphrates, a few kilometers away from the city of Jorf Al-Sakhar. The forces shuttle back and forth within this area. It’s two days to the Iraqi New Year and the beginning of the month of Muharram. The forces are preparing themselves for the Friday operation. 

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Abu Sadeq, high-ranking official in the Badr Corps: “After the fall of Saddam Hussein and the Ba’ath regime in Iraq, this area became a strategic point and a safe haven for terrorists groups like al-Qaeda. But during this period of time and after the religious edict issued by Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, many areas in this region have been cleaned and liberated. God willing, in the coming days, and with some more operations, we will completely clean the area of al-Qaeda and ISIL.” 

TIME CODE: 05:00_10:00

Narration: Abu Sadeq is a high-ranking official in the Badr Corps. He tells us about the aims of the operation and the motivations behind it. For those who don’t know him, he’s like a person who knows nothing about war. But the fact is that he’s an old veteran. His calm face and forces say so. 

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Iraqi Soldier: “Today, we’ve just come here to answer, first of all, to the call of the Grand Ayatollah and second of all, to safeguard our great land, Iraq; the land of prophets and holy things.” 

Narration: The majority of these forces are volunteers: office clerks, businessmen, workers, clerics, students, the poor and the rich, the young and the old are all members of this army. They have decided to do away with an enemy who aims to strike terror into the hearts of people through most inhumane ways.

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Iraqi Soldier: “We’ve come here to serve Imam Hussien and Lady Zeinab. And we have only one wish: to die a martyr and God willing, we will fulfill it.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Interviewer: “Why did you leave your families to come here?”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Iraqi Soldier: “My family is not as important as Lady Zeibanb is. My wife is not as important as Lady Zeinab is. My mother is not as important as Lady Zeinab is. I’m not comparable with Ali Akbar. All my family are at the complete disposal of Imam Hussein. We always say, “I wish we were with you and won the war.” Today, this wish is going to be fulfilled.” 

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Iraqi Soldier: “I believe I am with Imam Hussein and in the land of Imam Hussein. What am I feeling? I feel today is the Day of Ashura. What I hear is as if I’m in Karbala. I swear to God the only thing we want from Imam Hussein is this: whenever I visit his shrine, I want him to accept me as one of his men. I want to die a martyr. I swear to God that I only want to die a martyr.” 

Narration: Tuesday, October 23, 2014, A Day before the Ashura Operation. The forces get on pick-ups while they are happy and full of energy to leave their position towards the battlefield. The destination is one of the Iraqi Army’s bases near the frontline. They have decided to do away with the enemy who tries to strike terror and doubt into the hearts of people. In the Operation Room, the commanders are explaining the plan and the mission. The battalions of ordinary people surround a region that begins from south Jorf al-Sakhar. Other battalions in east of the region and on the other side of the Euphrates will block the road if the enemy turns to that side. Therefore, the enemy has no option but to go to the farthest corners in the north and pass over a bridge which connects the two sides of the Euphrates. The mission of the forces we have come along with is very difficult. They have to wait in ambush in this point known as Fazeliah and prevent the enemy from fleeing to Fallujah. 

Outside the Operation Room, tents are being set up one by one. The lull, here, is just before the storm. Some are talking to each other; some are taking rest; and some are sitting alone thinking about the past and the future.  

Friday Morning, October 24, 2014, The Day of the Ashura Operation

At the crack of dawn, the fighters are getting ready for the operation. Launching missiles is an indication that the operation has already begun. The fighters have woken up much earlier than the sun. Their eyes do not seem tired though have been wide open during the night. The fighters are prepared to get themselves to the north part of the battlefield, that is to Fazeliah and block the enemy’s ways to escape. 

TIME CODE: 10:00_15:00

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Military Leader: “Today is like the Day of Ashura. All of you must defend your country like Habib ibn Mazaher. The enemy is before you and Imam Hussein is behind you.  

Don’t retreat because Imam Hussein backs you. Do you retreat if you know that Imam Hussein is with you?

Not at all. 

Today we make a pledge to Imam Hussien, God Willing.

In this great day which is Friday and a blessed day, God willing. 

On the Day of Ashura, Imam Hussein said: “Is there anyone to help me?”

We are all here to say: “We are with you, Imam Hussein.””

Narration: The conflict begins much sooner than the fighters supposed. In the meanwhile, some enemy forces prevent the fighters from proceeding. The clash begins. The enemy snipers kill two of the fighters. A few more are injured. In the afternoon, the fighters liberate many parts of Farsiah and Fazeliah and bring under control the road that runs to the city of Fallujah; a road that is supposed to be the shelter of the enemy. They must determine their positions before the sunset. 

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Iraqi Soldier: “What’s news? Great news: Whether we win or die a martyr.”

Narration: Saturday, October 26, 2014, The Second Day of the Ashura Operation, Farther away, right on the other side of the battleground, we drive on a road that runs to Jorf al-Sakhar; a road liberated yesterday with the help of the Army and the voluntary forces. Seven years ago, the US Army had proceeded up to this point but retreated from this area forever as its vehicles and military equipment were destroyed. But nothing can stand up against the will of these fighters; neither mortar fire nor serious setbacks, nor death snarls, nor ruthless snipers who have their foreheads in the crosshairs, nor the enemy that wants to strike terror into their hearts. The paper tiger is ripped to shreds in the early hours of the operation and the fighters enter the city victoriously. On the other side of the battlefield, the fighters are still waiting. 

TIME CODE: 15:00_20:00

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Iraqi Military Official: “Here is north Jorf al-Sakhar. Right now, we are in Fazeliah, 20 kilometers away from the north of Jorf al-Sakhar. Through Fallujah, this area is connected to Anbar Province. The main aim of this operation is to stop the connection between Anbar Province, Fallujah and Jorf al-Sakhar because this area connects provinces of Baghdad, Babel, Karbala and Najaf together.” 

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Iraqi Military Official: “Over the past ten years, Jorf al-Sakhar has been threatening Karbala and thousands of pilgrims have been martyred while passing through this area. Many women have been captured in this area. About ten years, terrorist groups have had this area under control. I hope that we will clean this area in two coming days.”

Narration: Abduction, rape and death … words that have been resonating through this region over the past ten years. The mainstream media, however, turn a blind eye to all these inhumane crimes. The enemy broke many hearts. And the nation is bloody, but still unbowed. 

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Iraqi soldier: “Jorf al-Sakhar is a strategic area that connects some provinces together.  The people of this area have been members of al-Qaeda since the former regime. Al-Qaeda leaders like Zarqawi grew up here and this area was the first place they began and extended their activities. That’s why this area is different from other areas in Iraq because al-Qaeda has roots in here. This area has been the stronghold of al-Qaeda and terrorism even before the fall of Saddam Hussein.

-Didn’t the Americans clean this area when they were here?

No, the Americans never cleaned this area and terrorist groups expanded gradually. This area was not important for the Americans. This area is more important for pilgrims and civilians than for the Americans.” 

Narration: Once more, we move from the farthest north parts of the battlefield to the farthest south parts to witness the inch-by-inch cleaning of Jorf al-Sakhar. Now the paper tigers who wanted to strike the people with horror has been ripped to shreds. The lesson ISIL learns from Jorf al-Sakhar is not a pleasant one: despite their different cultures and backgrounds, when the Iraqi people unite, they can root out enemies of any kind. 

TIME CODE: 20:00_26:00

Narration: The fighters who have successfully cleaned the city of ISIL join together and mark the victory with songs and smiles. 

Sunday, October 26, 2014, The Third Day of the Ashura Operation

Last day, Jorf al-Sakhar and its surrounding areas were completely liberated and cleaned. Terrorist groups, pushed back to the north parts of the battlefield, are now surrounded from all sides. The Army, armed to the teeth, has come here to fulfill the aims of the operation in this region, that is, Fazeliah. As we reach Fazeliah, the Army, with the help of voluntary fighters, has already begun the cleaning of the palm groves in the suburbs of the city. Before the sunset, the groves and reed beds that can be good hideouts for the retreating enemy must be cleaned. 

For the Iraqi fighters, the Iranian faces of our team were quite familiar and they used every opportunity to express this familiarity.    

 Conversation [Arabic], Iraqi soldiers: “Hello.


Imam Ali is with you and us. 

Thank God!

ISIL was defeated. It’s finished. Damn ISIL and our enemies. May God destroy them for the sake of the Prophet and his family! 

We owe these victories to Lady Zahra. 

We thank the Islamic Republic of Iran and in particular its leader Seyyed Ali Khamenei because Iran supports us and other resistance movements. Our will and determination spring from them who fight so bravely. May God protect the Iranian nation! 

They’re finished. The rats all scuttled.”   

Narration: Behind one of the bulwarks, we were talking to the volunteers when the enemy began shelling. The fighting started again. A few mortar shells that dropped all around us killed and injured a few fighters. One of our cameras also broke in this attack. In the end, with the help of Iraqi young fighters, the strategic region of Jorf al-Sakhar was liberated. Abu Hassan is monitoring the latest news to send the news of victory to the headquarters. We went there, performed ablution and came back. 

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Iraqi soldier: “Now we are in front of the Euphrates and the position of Mr. Dagher’s group. From here, their flags are clearly visible on the roofs of people’s houses.

God willing, we will keep winning the battle. We want to clear the whole Iraqi soil from ISIL and its remnants. 

Is it finished, Sir?

We went there, performed ablution and came back.” 

Narration: Arbaeen Day, 40 Day after the Ashura Operation, The road from Baghdad to Karbala is now under the feet of the pilgrims who are going to the holy shrine of Imam Hussien. They have been walking on this road for centuries in all weathers, in danger, in safety, in hardship and in ease to take part in the biggest congregation of lovers in the world; those who love human values and human virtues. 


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