Understanding Isis. Interview to Pascal Manoukian


«As a journalist for 40 years I have tried to explain the world. You can only fight what you understand. I firmly beleve that». Reporter and French writer of Armenian descent, Pascal Manoukian is witness of most important international conflicts between the years 1975 and 1995.

After Les échoués – 2016, winner of Prix Première –, this his second novel, Ce que tient ta main droite t’appartient – it too, like the previous, published in Italy by 66thand2nd –, gives us an intense story – inspired by Parisian terrorist attacks – of loss and redemption, suspended between desire of understanding and necessary courage to achieving it.

Manoukian, in order to try to understand, in addition to revenge, Karim – novel’s lead character – leaves for Syria and he infiltrates in the ranks of Isis. Do you think that, despite all, does understanding represent even a right approach?

Of course. Karim, more than revenge, wants to understand how the religion of peace his father taught could be transformed in a war weapon.

«We have to recruiting soldiers in every city. Recovering all those left out of the system»: what are responsibilities of democratic societies about this?

When a 17 years old french teenager joins Syria to become a human bomb on a Damascus market he is 90% responsible of his failure, but he cannot be the only responsible. Journalist, parents, teacher, imam, social workers and someone else must have failed. So of course the society has also something to do with his lost son’s.

Qatar and Isis: what’s the connection?

Money and realpolitic.

«That’s how it works propaganda: or it recruiters or it’s scary»: it was the media impact of Isis video-production really so decisive in relation to recruiting and spreading of islamist message?

It is essential. It uses all the codes of the Pop Culture that we have invented (in our countries) to penatrate easily (for commercial reasons) in our teen’s brain.

Daesh keeps the form (Series, clips, Real TV) to penetrate, but changes the message.

«Bleeding today for healing tomorrow»: could you tell us about different steps of Isis militants training?

No more that what I described in the novel. You arrive, you are asked what you want to do (human bomb, fighter, islamic police…). Then you are tested for it in spécial camps. If you don’t fit for anything you are killed or send on the front line.

«Just keep it simple about Shiites and Sunites and give it up Yazidis»: how much did journalistic simplification damage to comprehension of fundamentalist phenomenon?

What I mean is that when you ask a journalist to make it always more simple in a world that is more and more complicated, you take the risk that the most caricatural propaganda works on a part of the population.

For Daesh of course the simplification is obvious. Very little about the Yesidis, very little about the “pipe lines war”, very little about the démocratic opposition.   

«What you hold in the right hand belong to you»: in your opinion, is Isis losing his grip now?

Isis is always adapting itself at the situation. It is the end of the Kalifat but not the end of Isis. Isis has mooved to Afghansitan for exemple. But Isis has (for now) lost his war against démocratic societies because in none of them, despite the bombing, they have succeed to divide the population between muslim and non muslim. This was the main goal of Isis. A total failure. A great victory for democratie.

About exploitation and manipulation of horror: what do you think about cases of fake victims of terrorist attacks of 13 November 2015?

The worst of human nature. Unforgivable.