This Disturbing Iraqi Special Forces Demo Is Like A Cheer Tryout From Hell

Iraq’s elite troops show off martial arts skills, jump through a flaming hoop, and rip rabbits apart with their bare hands.

byJoseph Trevithick|
Iraq photo


It’s not uncommon for military forces around the world to put both new recruits and existing troops through often strenuous and sometimes bizarre rituals to build camaraderie and esprit de corps. A recently released video of what may be a graduation ceremony for Iraqi Army trainees takes this to a whole new level with the troops following up a martial arts display by killing live animals. 

On June 8, 2017, the Iraqi Ministry of Defense posted an official video of the event, which involved special forces recruits and took place on the 14th of July Bridge in the country’s capital, Baghdad, according to a crude machine translation of the title. There was no additional information. The span, named in honor of the day a military coup deposed the Iraqi monarchy in 1958, crosses the Tigris river and is a major route in and out of the city.

The demonstration begins innocuously enough. The soldiers march out onto the bridge in an orderly formation before performing a synchronized display of martial arts moves. Things begin to get more intense as instructors break sticks over their limbs. Eventually, select recruits break flaming tiles with their fists and foreheads. Then everyone has to literally jump through a flaming hoop.

But if you fast forward to 2:00 in the video, things get decidedly more extreme. On command, teams of soldiers beginning beating white rabbits, resulting in a flurry of movement and flying fur. Some appear to bite tear the small animals with their mouths and what appear to be innards fall to the ground. Other individuals look to be doing the same to small snakes or lizards.

Be warned, the full footage is disturbing to watch.

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And then, as if nothing happened, the event moves on to the recruits shooting off Czech Vz.58 assault rifles before building a human pyramid. The individual at the top of the pile raises the Iraqi flag – and then the video ends.

This is hardly the first time the Iraqi Ministry of Defense has posted official video from similar events and demonstrations that might be considered dangerous or even disturbing by Western standards. In October 2016, another clip appeared online showing recruits taking a “leap of faith” by jumping of what may also be the 14th of July Bridge. 

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To be fair, it’s also not out of the ordinary to see similarly garish displays of individual strength and grit from other military and security forces around the world, especially special operations elements.

There are similar rituals within the U.S. military. Every year, during the U.S.-led multi-national Cobra Gold training exercise in Thailand, American troops drink cobra blood and eat the animal’s flesh, as well as dining on other living things, such as scorpions. The lurid display is part of a jungle survival course the Thai military runs for visiting personnel. Trainers kill the venomous snakes on the scene. Official pictures and news items routinely appear online and units proudly announce they’ve completed the training. Then there is North Korea, notorious for the crazy displays put on by its special operations soldiers that supposedly showcase their extreme toughness.

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All that being said, this Iraqi demonstration is still by far one of the most excessive displays we’ve ever seen.

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