With the evacuation of eastern Aleppo underway, social media have lit up with fake images and news. Here are four examples of misleading stories that have been circulating on the internet.
WARNING: Some of the following images could be upsetting for readers.
For days, people living in the eastern part of the Syrian city have been living amongst ruins, with a constant fear of shelling or being killed by government forces who have succeeded in taking nearly all of the previously rebel-held areas of Aleppo. Some of the people left inside the city have been using Periscope and taking photos and video footage of what it is like there at the moment. But whilst there are real images coming out of the besieged city, some users on social media are using images taken out of context to support their own opinions on the rapidly unfolding situation.
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1. Before-and-after photos to try to prove that images by rebels are faked
In order to try to show that there aren’t civilians dying in Aleppo, or to show that people all over the world are being fooled by photos of the carnage, people have been posting a series of photos showing how easy it is to paint very realistic-looking injuries on children. These four photos have been shared since 2015, mostly on internet forums in Russia, but have come to light again recently.
These photos come from different contexts. The first three were taken together and all show the same girl with her face being painted to look like it has a horrific injury. FRANCE 24 has traced these images back to a blog based in Oman, which uploaded the photos in March 2015. It’s not certain that the photos were taken in Oman, but it is the oldest occurrence of the photos that FRANCE 24 can find on the internet.
However, the final photo, with the young girl injured and surrounded by rubble, comes from Yemen, after a shelling in March 2015. She is wearing clothes that look very similar to those of the girl with the painted face, which is undoubtedly what caused people to see a resemblance. The photo can be found in a collection of images showing children killed in airstrikes.
These four photos, coming from different sources, have been posted together to make people believe that the entire scene was set up.
2. A video dating from 2013 — used to illustrate killings that have just begun in Aleppo
And on the other side, anti-Assad activists have been sharing a video that they claim proves that soldiers from government forces have begun to kill civilians. Turkish media has been sharing the video, which shows soldiers entering a house, bringing out the people living there and then killing them in cold blood. The title for the video is “Executions have begun in the middle of the street in Aleppo”.
Amnesty International’s video verification tool, Citizen Evidence, shows that the video was first published in December 2012 on YouTube by a group of fighters that call themselves the “Knights of the Levant”. This group writes that the soldiers are indeed Syrian, but no more information is given regarding where it happened. The video, in any case, isn’t a recent one coming out of Aleppo.
3. A girl crying amongst corpses — in a music video
A girl in a dirty brown smock runs crying between bloodied dead bodies. This image was shared by Twitter user slman210, along with a caption saying that the distressing image was not from Hollywood, but from Aleppo.
It may not be Hollywood, but it’s still from showbiz. It’s a screen grab from Lebanese singer Hiba Tawaji’s music video “Al Rabih Al Arabi”, which came out in 2014. The original tweet racked up over 2,000 retweets – but not nearly as many as the first tweet debunking it, which has now been retweeted over 2.4 thousand times.
4. The Syrian ambassador who uses old photos from Iraq to ‘prove’ a point
A woman steps on the back of a soldier who is kneeling on hands and knees below her to help her get down from a van. Bachar Jaafari, the Syrian ambassador to the United Nations, held up a photo of this moment as a proof of the kindness that the Syrian government forces show towards civilians in eastern Aleppo. But the photo wasn’t taken in Syria – it was taken in Iraq.
During Tuesday’s emergency UN Security Council meeting in New York, Jaafari denied the allegations that the regime was massacring people living in eastern Aleppo. He brandished the photo, saying, “Look at what the Syrian army is doing in Aleppo.”
The photo that he so proudly held up, however, was taken and first published earlier this year in June, during the recapture of the Iraqi town Fallujah from ISIS control, and the kneeling soldier is from the Iraqi army, helping women flee the fighting in the town. The image made the rounds on Iraqi media at the time.
The photo was published in June 2016 on the Iraqi site alrafidayn.