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In Tunisia and France, extremist selfies boast of violence

Salhi and Rezgui are not the first murderers to take selfies with their victims

Diana Moukalled

Published: Updated:

Recent news reports indicate that Yassin Salhi, the man who beheaded his boss and tried to attack a factory in Lyon last month, took a selfie with the victim’s severed head and sent the picture to someone believed to be fighting with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Syria. It’s true that French authorities arrested the murderer and confiscated his phone and that the photo was not published and we did not see it, however, the reported news itself is just as shocking. Other reports also allege that Seifeddine Rezgui, the Tunisian man who slaughtered 38 holidaymakers in the resort town of Sousse, took a selfie with British tourists before he committed his crime and even took photos of his victims after he killed them.

Extreme selfies, like that of Yassin Salhi's reported snap, are the type which come like a slap in the face

Diana Moukalled

Salhi and Rezgui are not the first murderers to take selfies with their victims as selfies with one’s dead rivals have become common. Perhaps the most famous of these snapshots is that of an ISIS fighter who took a picture of himself carrying the head of a Kurdish female fighter in Kobane in Syria while he smiled for the picture as her blonde hair flowed.

Global pandemic

It’s said that selfies have become similar to a global pandemic and ISIS did not fight this temptation as the organization’s gunmen have appeared in many photos. Of course they’re not the only ones to do so as fighters from other official and partisan groups have also taken photos with their victims and rivals, either when they’re still alive in captivity or after killing them.

These photos reflect their bloated ego and shows that what occupies these men is immortalizing their own selves during the peak of violence.

Researchers says we’re living in the era of narcissism and worry and that daily selfies which show our ordinary and private lives reveal that bloated and disturbed ego. But what sort of self is being exposed via selfies like that of Yassin Salhi’s alleged photo?

Violent behavior

It’s common to link violent behavior to what we see in media outlets, movies cinema or video games but in fact all the latter are just tools. The violence and narcissism we witness is linked to man himself and to his life and environment before anything else. He who takes selfies with his victims is pretty much telling us that he does not care about us and that the purpose of taking a photo with the victim’s severed head or with the victim’s dead body is a the goal on its own.

We are on a daily endeavor to formulate narratives about our lives to tell ourselves and, sometimes, others. Extreme selfies, like that of Yassin Salhi's reported snap, are the type which come like a slap in the face We are in the era of globalized violence. The prevalence of wars, collapse of social safety nets, lack of political stability, increase of population, shortage of water and food, spread of poverty, threat of climate change and the rise of displaced people and asylum seekers are all factors which affect how we evaluate our perspective of life and confused egos.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on July 14, 2015.

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Diana Moukalled is the Web Editor at the Lebanon-based Future Television and was the Production & Programming Manager with at the channel. Previously, she worked there as Editor in Chief, Producer and Presenter of “Bilayan al Mujaradah,” a documentary that covers hot zones in the Arab world and elsewhere, News and war correspondent and Local news correspondent. She currently writes a regular column in AlSharq AlAwsat. She also wrote for Al-Hayat Newspaper and Al-Wasat Magazine, besides producing news bulletins and documentaries for Reuters TV. She can be found on Twitter: @dianamoukalled.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.