In the past week, thousands of people have reacted with emotion to a video showing a young black woman being tortured by several lighter-skinned men. Angry viewers denounced what they believed was a racist act against Africans carried out by men who they alternately described as “Chinese”, “Indian” or “Arabic”. In reality, however, this footage was actually recorded in Brazil.


WARNING: SOME READERS MAY FIND THE FOLLOWING IMAGES SHOCKING

The footage, which lasts 1 minute 30 seconds, shows several men surrounding a young woman, before starting to club her on the head with a wooden beam and punch her in the face. After several blows, the woman seems to lose consciousness and starts convulsing. Seeing how hurt she is, the men then to lift her up into a sitting position and keep her from going under.

The FRANCE 24 Observers team decided not to republish this video. In the screengrabs that we have used, we have blurred the face of the victim of this violent attack.

Dozens of people sent the Observers this video on social media. Almost everyone who shared the footage claimed that the attack on the young woman was a racist act carried out by Arabic, Chinese or Indian men.


One outraged viewer blamed “Indian” men for this attack. He took to Facebook to share this video on March 13, 2017, writing in French : “Very, very urgent! Look at how our African women are treated by Indians. Share please. I am begging you. Please to find these sons of dogs.”

Another viewer blamed “Chinese” men. On March 12, 2017, he shared the video on Facebook, writing [in French]: “My dear countrymen. Look at the work carried out by the Chinese in Cameroon. They kidnap little girls [and] take them into the bush to kill them. Please remain vigilant!!!... The video of the young girl who is killed by men [sic]. I want you to share this video with all of your contacts so that the entire world knows that is going on in my country, Cameroon, [with] unpunished murders.”

Many people reached out to the Observers team with questions about this video. One viewer posted on the Observers Facebook group on March 12, 2017, writing [in French]: “Hello, I’d like to send you a video in which men of Asian origin kill a black woman in the countryside. Apparently, this took place in Cameroon. Could you verify if this is authentic?” 


Portuguese with a Brazilian accent

However, with a little research, the Observers team discovered that this video was more than likely filmed in Brazil. The men in the video speak Brazilian Portuguese with an accent typical of the southeastern part of the country, according to several native Brazilians consulted by the FRANCE 24 Observers team.

"You’ve made a mistake,” one of the attackers says [in Brazilian Portuguese] to the young woman at the beginning of the video.

“You are going to kill her like that!” one of the men cries out [in Brazilian Portuguese] after the badly beaten woman starts convulsing.

Then, the men start speaking to the convulsing victim:
“Come on, woman. Open your mouth! Breathe! Calm down”

"That’s it, it’s over. We did what we had to do,” they say at the end. The image above shows several screengrabs from the video.


A local Brazilian press agency shared this footage, and while the Brazilian press agency was unable to establish the details of this incident, it did report that the video was filmed in Brazil. It was first shared on social media on March 8, which happens to be International Women’s Day.

The FRANCE 24 Observers team did not find any copies of the video shared online before this date.

Video leads to widespread denunciations of racism

This video has been viewed more than 60,000 times since March 8. One viewer named “Guy” — who lives in Paris, France but who hails originally from the Ivory Coast — shared the video alongside his own video commentary expressing his anger at the incident. Guy’s video was viewed more than 25,000 times and shared 1,200 times.


Guy wrote [in French], “Facebook friends, I am making this video to stand up to the behaviour of certain Arabic, Indian, Chinese and Brazilian brothers against the black people in their countries. I will show you a video where a young African girl is shamefully murdered in cold blood in an Arabic country.

In his video commentary, Guy claims that the young woman is African and that she was beaten up by a group of Saudi men in a potato field in Saudi Arabia.

When interviewed by the FRANCE 24 Observers, Guy explained that a friend had sent him the video in a private message. The friend claimed that he had got the video from another friend living in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates.

This isn’t the first time that footage captured in Brazil has been misappropriated by African social media users. On several occasions, videos shot in Brazil showing gang fighting have been shared on African social media by viewers claiming that the videos show racist attacks.

This video may not show an African woman being tortured, but it may still be a racist attack. Brazil is the country with the biggest black population worldwide outside of Africa, and the country has a big problem with racism. A 2009 study showed that 69 per cent of all homicide victims that year were black. There have been many subsequent reports on the deeply-ingrained racism in Brazilian society, and this video possibly reveals the extent of it and violence against women.


>> READ ON THE OBSERVERS: These gory, violent videos don’t show xenophobic attacks in South Africa