Harnessing the power of TV

Hany Ghoraba
Monday 3 May 2021

The second series of Al-Ikhtiyar exposes the truth behind jihadist and terrorist networks

For the second year running, the Egyptian counter-terrorism TV show Al-Ikhtiyar (The Choice) has been setting new standards of quality for an action show in the region. The show, which became an instant success during Ramadan 2020, is now replicating the same success this year for a second 30-episode season.   

Last year, fans of this state-of-art Egyptian counter-terrorism show were pleasantly surprised at the announcement that a second season of the hit show would be filmed. However, many were sceptical about whether the show would be able to attain the same high standards it set for itself in the first season. But all such fears vanished on the broadcasting of the first episode of the new show in Ramadan 2021. 

The show’s second series carries the same patriotic message as the first, with the exception that it is now focused on the great services and sacrifices made by the Egyptian Ministry of the Interior, National Security and police, instead of the army as in the first season. 

The show, based on real events, follows the dedicated efforts of these agencies in defending the country against the most ferocious terrorist wave in its history, orchestrated by the Muslim Brotherhood group and its affiliates and allies the Islamic State (IS) and Al-Qaeda groups. For once, the unsung heroes of the police are given a TV drama worthy of their great sacrifices. While the 30 episodes of the series will barely scratch the surface of such work, it is a simple tribute to acknowledge the work and the sacrifices of this Egyptian institution.   

Starring the extremely talented Karim Abdel-Aziz and Ahmed Mekki as the protagonists and police heroes, the show has no shortage of amazing talent to back them up. This includes great stars such as the talented Jordanian actor Iyad Nassar and Egypt’s legendary Hadi Al-Gayyar, who delivered his swansong performance in the show before passing away in January. The seamless and flawlessly cut scenes of the show throw the audience into the world of intrigue, secret investigations and on-edge action that is on a par with some of the finest Western TV shows such as 24 and Homeland. 

The show’s characters, brilliantly written by Hani Sarhan and directed by the talented Peter Mimi, are gripping for the audience, which has quickly got attached to them thanks to their lifelike personalities depicted to perfection. The main storyline focuses on the period following the ousting of former Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in the 30 June 2013 Revolution and the terrorism and violence that followed it, instigated by his terrorist supporters who vowed to turn Egypt into a battlefield and the kind of chaos that has taken place in Syria and Iraq. 

The show also depicts scenes of the dispersal of the Rabaa terrorist encampment and the sacrifices made by the police to minimise casualties among civilians by sacrificing their own lives. It includes real footage taken from various sources including international TV companies, and this helps to provide authenticity to what could be the first ever properly documented show about the dispersal of the terrorist encampment.

The footage also provides incriminating evidence that debunks Brotherhood sob stories and victimisation techniques, sometimes parroted by some human-rights groups, to suggest that the encampment was a peaceful sit-in. These so-called “peaceful” sit-in organisers had enough weapons to organise a militia that killed 43 police officers during the camp’s dispersal and 141 in August 2013 alone in the rest of the country. 

The show’s success has driven terrorist Muslim Brotherhood activists and online trolls, along with some of their leftist allies, out of their wits, as it managed in its first few episodes to expose their plots through video footage and their admissions of using armed violence in interviews on the terrorist-supporting Qatari TV network Aljazeera.

Moreover, the TV series draws attention to the perils that the Ministry of the Interior had to face in order to prove that there was a conspiracy orchestrated against the country’s security services starting from the espionage of deceased president Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood group all the way to radicalised and treacherous elements in the police force that were flushed out during the course of the investigations. 

After the broadcast of the first episode of the show, there was a deluge of orchestrated social media hashtags by Islamists attacking it on the ludicrous pretext that it celebrated or incited violence. Such claims were countered by millions of social media accounts supporting the show and praising its ability to expose the terrorist plots of the Brotherhood group and its members. 

While the show’s standards are on a par with international TV series broadcast all over the globe, it has still not been broadcast for Western viewers and fans of international TV series, even though it presents an undistorted picture of the ongoing situation in Egypt and one not twisted by Islamist activists living in European cities or, worse, by foreign media reporters clueless about the situation and willingly or ignorantly becoming useful idiots in the hands of the Brotherhood group. 

Thanks to the new show’s quality, this TV series should be translated and marketed to countries across the world so that they can hear the story as Egyptians tell it and not as it has sometimes been twisted by human rights groups’ reports, terrorist propaganda or shoddy reporting from unprofessional journalists. 

This show should be on streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, Starz and Amazon along with other international TV shows in various languages. The Egyptian police story depicted in the show is a true and human story no less filled with emotion, action and sacrifice than equivalent Western TV shows, except that the story in Al-Ikhtiyar is also real and not fiction. It should thus have even greater appeal to international audiences that are fans of counter-terrorism shows or police shows in general. 

The power of this excellent and well-produced TV series has beaten eight years of lies and fraudulent reports by the Muslim Brotherhood group and has garnered support for the Egyptian police. The latter are shown in their correct light for a change, showing the sacrifices they have made that are as great as those of Egyptian heroes of equal importance, among them the country’s men in uniform and members of the Armed Forces.  

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, and in this case a good TV series is worth a thousand articles if produced correctly, notably because it can penetrate the hearts and minds of audiences much more easily than even the finest book or article.

Al-Ikhtiyar is one of several counter-terrorism series on TV this year, including Cairo-Kabul and Counter-Attack which are also garnering large audiences thanks to their excellent production values and their desire to expose the truth behind jihadist and terrorist networks through good story-telling and acting. 

It is time for the power of television to be harnessed on an international scale to rectify the shoddy image painted by Muslim Brotherhood minions everywhere, as this would be the greatest tribute that could be made to those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice to defend this great nation.

*The writer is a political analyst and author of Egypt’s Arab Spring: The Long and Winding Road to Democracy.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 28 April, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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