Anniversary of Jordanian pilot's execution by IS passes quietly

Anniversary of Jordanian pilot's execution by IS passes quietly
Society: One year on, the tragic death of Moaz al-Kasasbeh, Jordan's top gun executed by IS, has been almost ignored, perhaps owing to the difficult memories it conjures up.
4 min read
05 January, 2016
Jordanians seem to have forgotten their fallen pilot, despite their outrage last year [Getty]
The first anniversary of the Islamic State group's execution-by-immolation of Jordanian pilot Moaz al-Kasasbeh went almost unnoticed on Sunday January 3.

The date marks one of several on which Jordan's government determined the pilot's death must have had occured, after IS posted a video showing Kasasbeh being burned alive in early February 2015.

The lack of official and public interest in the anniversary is in stark contrast with the outrage felt at the time, and it seems a year may have been enough time for the Kingdom of Jordan to forget the pilot's tragedy, which preoccupied the country and the world for months after he was captured by IS on Christmas Eve, 2014.

The pilot's F-16 went down over northern Syria near IS' de facto capital of Raqqa, after which he ejected successfully. Militants then pulled him out of the Euphrates River.
Jordan has a habit of commemorating its fallen with a lot of fanfare, but Moaz's death is possibly too sensitive for Jordan to stomach, as it reminds the kingdom of the brutal blow IS dealt to its efforts

He became the first foreign military pilot to fall into the extremists' hands since the international coalition began its airstrikes in September 2014.

His brutal execution and the graphic video that showed him burning in a cage caused worldwide outrage, and prompted Jordan to execute Islamist detainees and briefly step up its airstirkes against IS in Syria.

When and how should Kasasbeh be remembered?

Jordan usually commemorates its fallen and departed leaders with a lot of fanfare, or at the very least in the form of lengthy profiles in official news outlets. 

However, the first anniversary of Kasasbeh's death did not receive the same treatment, save for a few lines published in a small number of news outlets.

The only gesture of remembrance for the pilot came from the Roman Orthodox Church in Karak province, from which Kasasbeh hailed, which decided to name a community centre after him on the anniversary of his death.

There is no exact official date for Moaz's death, which has caused a lot of pain for his family and prompted activists to call for him to be commemorated on February 3, the date IS broadcasted a brutal video showing him burning alive

Jawdat, brother of Moaz al-Kasasbeh, eulogised him on his Facebook page, but criticised the lack of an official date. "We have been calling for one every day, but unfortunately, our calls have been in vain," he wrote.

Jawdat had written a similar post on 29 December, one of the dates first officially proposed as the day the pilot was supposedly executed. Kasasbeh's family has often demanded the government to do more to verify the time of death.

On social media, some Jordanians suggested the problem be resolved by commemorating the pilot's death on February 3, the day IS posted the video of his execution.

To them, that date remains symbolic, given the shock it caused in the country, the Arab world and the world beyond, and the sympathy and solidarity it engendered with Kasasbeh's family and the Jordanian people at the time.

These Jordanians say commemorating Kasasbeh on that day would remind the people of the kingdom of the solidarity they felt with one another a year ago.

Perhaps the country will heed their advice, and Kasasbeh will not be forgotten again come February.

Who was Moaz al-Kasasbeh?

The video showing the horrific murder of Lieutenant Moaz al-Kassasbeh sent a shockwave around the world, and left his family reeling with pain, rage and despair.

Moaz, 26, was one of eight siblings - four boys and four girls. Since childhood, his family says, he had dreamed of becoming a pilot. After high school, he attended flight training college.

In 2009, following his graduation, he joined the military and began flying F-16s and other warplanes, soon earning the rank of lieutenant.

The young pilot was married in 2013 to a university graduate from his home village in Karak.

Moaz is said to have refused to share his feelings about Jordan's bombing missions against IS militants.

Perhaps this is not so surprising, as Jordan's participation in the US-led military coalition against IS was unpopular in the pilot's home village, according to his brother Jawdat at the time.

"People here believe our boys shouldn't fight outside the country," he said. "They should fight only in defending the soil of the country."

Jawdat said his brother was a devout Muslim and had joined his parents on a pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia.