A video has been circulating online in which people are made up with fake injuries, albeit realistic, to act as people wounded in war. Supporters of the Syrian regime are sharing the video on social media, saying that it reveals the behind-the-scenes lengths that anti-Bashar Assad activists are willing to go to to accuse the Syrian government of atrocities. But the video is actually from an old news report – and has been used before as a tool for disinformation in the Middle East.
The video has been shared online accompanied by sarcastic comments and captions such as, “The martyrs of Eastern Ghouta in the make-up chair” or “A few pictures before their ‘death’”. People shared the video as proof that the airstrikes and devastation in Eastern Ghouta, a region in northern Syria, is all an elaborate stunt. In the video, children sit patiently as their make-up is applied, and actors lie on the ground as though they have been injured in a bombing. Some actors grin cheerfully at the camera, with bloody faces and limbs.
Various YouTube, Facebook and Twitter accounts have shared the video, including Hosein Mortada, the head of the Syrian bureau for Iranian TV channel Al Alem.
All of the accounts have the same version of the video: it’s 30 seconds long, without sound, and in poor quality. But many viewers haven’t noticed the little logo on the top-left hand side of the screen, which says ‘Gaza Post’.
The video has been spliced from a full news report by the Palestinian website The Gaza Post, about a group of young Palestinians who are interested in make-up and cinema special effects. In the original report, which was published online on February 25, 2017, and which lasts just over two minutes, members of the group explain that they are setting up a company specialising in cinema make-up and special effects, and that the company is the first one of its kind in Gaza. In the video that the pro-Syrian accounts shared, they’ve only kept the sequences that show people being made up.
This isn’t the first time that this same video has been used to manipulate people’s opinions. Israeli websites also used the same video, without sound, to illustrate what they term ‘Pallywood’ – a derogatory neologism invented by American writer Richard Landes to designate the scenes staged by Palestinian journalists, according to him, in order to give a bad image of Israel to the outside world.
The besieged northeastern region of Eastern Ghouta is currently awaiting aid after a delayed vote by the United Nations Security Council eventually agreed on a ceasefire.
More than 40 trucks loaded with aid were unable to reach the 400,000 people living in the battered enclave. Over 500 people were killed in a matter of days last month, in one of the most fierce assaults in Syria's long war.