Actors dressed like ISIS jihadists spark backlash in shopping mall

Actors dressed like ISIS jihadists spark backlash in shopping mall

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IT WAS supposed to be a harmless public prank, but it had people screaming and running away in terror. When does a quest for publicity go too far?

NOTE TO self-proclaimed innovative marketing folks: if you’re going to stage a publicity stunt, leave terror-related gimmicks out of it.

Earlier this week a group of men stormed a shopping centre in Iran’s capital Tehran with fake guns, bullets and swords, with one even riding a horse.

Footage posted to social media showed the men wearing the clothes radical Islamists would normally wear, and shouting “Allahu Akbar!”

Screams could be heard in the background, and there are reports people were running out of the building.

But the men were actually actors, who appeared on behalf of Iranian filmmaker Ebrahim Hatamikia, to promote his upcoming feature Damascus Time.

The footage showed some bystanders clearly knew it was a stitch-up, smiling at the actors while filming on their phones.

But the stunt has been slammed on social media, with many saying it was in poor taste considering the threat posed by Islamic State.

Two terror attacks were carried out in Tehran only a year ago, targeting the Iranian Parliament building and the Mausoleum of Ruhollah Khomeini. The incidents left 17 civilians dead and 43 wounded.

Hatamikia later said he was unaware of the stunt.

“I thought a person with a red beard (like ISIS militants) is going to stand outside the mall and let the fans take selfies with him. I didn’t know there would be horses, screams, and crowds inside the mall,” he said, according to Iran Front Page.

“The show was definitely beneath the dignity of my film,” he added.

One clip filmed by one of the bystanders shows a parent shouting at the actors: “What if a woman or a child is shocked by your freaky show here? Who is responsible for such a stupid move? Who the hell did tell you to dress up like this?”

The stunt was met with a great deal of criticism on social media in Iran after reports suggested that some people, including children, had panicked. Pictures posted online also showed people taking selfies as the pranksters went up escalators. One is shown trying to connect the wires of a fake bomb. 

Seventeen civilians were killed and 43 wounded last year in simultaneous Isis attacks on the Iranian parliament building and the mausoleum of Ayatollah Khomeini in Tehran.

In his apology, Hatamikia said he did not know the details of the publicity event for Damascus Time in advance. “I was under impression that someone is going to be in red beard standing outside Kourosh complex so that people can take pictures. I didn’t imagine there would be a horse, crowd and shouting inside the complex, I wasn’t aware,” he said.

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