Iran's karate woman and the boy who's still alive: Fake images in Iran's protests

The 'karate woman' on the left is actually a still from a film; the image of a protest top-right was taken in Bahrain in 2011; and the boy bottom-right published this video to prove that he wasn't dead, as was reported in some outlets.
The 'karate woman' on the left is actually a still from a film; the image of a protest top-right was taken in Bahrain in 2011; and the boy bottom-right published this video to prove that he wasn't dead, as was reported in some outlets.

Since December 28, 2017, a wave of protests has swept Iran. Citizens have broadcast dozens of videos online showing the demonstrations and the resulting police crackdown. As ever in these kinds of situations, there have also been many fake photos and videos circulating, not only on social media but also mistakenly shared by journalists and in mainstream media across the world. The FRANCE 24 Observers team has done a round-up of some of the most widely shared fake images around the Iranian uprising.

Iranian women may be brave – but this one is an actress

This photo showing an example of “brave Iranian women” who fight back against the heavy-handed crackdown by the authorities has been touted as one of the most inspiring images to come out of the uprising. Many journalists have shared it on Twitter or Facebook.

But the photo actually comes from the state-funded film "Golden Collar": a piece of propaganda against the 2009 "Green Movement" uprising that was screened in cinemas in 2012. During the Green Movement, thousands of Iranians hit the streets to demand a vote recount in the presidential election, convinced that the reformist candidate Mir Hossein Moussavi must have won against the ultraconservative candidate Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who had been declared the winner. The protests were brutally repressed.

Policia” amigo!

Many social media users claimed that this video shows Iranian riot police looting a shop.

However, it’s clear that the video was not taken in Iran. Iran’s riot police wear a different uniform with a different style of helmet, and unsurprisingly enough they don’t have the Spanish word for police – "Policia" – written across their jackets. According to a Mexican media, this video was actually taken in Mexico on December 26, 2017, and shows Mexican police robbing some mobile phones from a shop.

I’m not dead!

Amir Hosein Papi, a 13-year-old boy from the town of Dorud in the east of Iran learnt from social media that he was apparently dead. The news was shared by some Iranian media outlets and some internationally famous Iranian journalists. To prove that he was, indeed, alive, he filmed himself and published the video on social media.

Victims from an attack in Egypt

A pro-uprising Telegram channel with over 1 million followers misappropriated photos of dead people. After 21 people were announced to be dead as a result of the protests, Telegram published photos of who they said were the victims. The photos actually showed the victims of an attack on New Year’s Day in Cairo, Egypt.

Invented protests

In this tweet, this user whose profile describes him as a “Zionist, Trumponomics Expert and Host of the Offended America Podcast”, claims that protesters are heading toward Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei’s residence. There has been absolutely no mention elsewhere of protests in the south of Tehran around the Ayatollah Khamenei’s home, either in social media posts, or in reports by foreign or Iranian media outlets.

According to our Observers in Tehran, videos put on social media and reports by international news outlets like the BBC, the protests and clashes since December 31 have been located in the centre of Tehran – at least seven kilometres away from Khamenei’s residence.

Bahrain, not Iran

Many users published a video that was actually filmed in Bahrain and which said showed the protests in Iran. Not only was the video published by a Bahraini account, but Bahraini flags can be spotted everywhere in the video.

The video shows a protest against Bahraini authorities on February 22, 2011.


An “Iranian protest”… with people speaking Spanish

This is another example of a video taken in a different country – in this case in Argentina – and presented as showing a protest in Iran. However, the person behind the Twitter account that posted it describes himself presented himself as a “pro-Israel” and former Israeli army soldier. The fake video has been retweeted over 1,200 times.

In reality the video was taken in December 2017 in Argentina’s capital Buenos Aires, and shows protests against a new government pension policy. There are people speaking in Spanish in the background of the video.

A symbol of the protests – but a different protest altogether

A photo of a woman in a Tehran street brandishing her hijab was one of the first photos from the protests to go viral. Many activists, social media users and journalists shared it. The woman in the photo is indeed defying the mandatory hijab policy in Iran – but the photo was taken on Enghelab street in Tehran on December 27. The uprising began in the town of Mashhad in the north east of Iran on December 28, so has nothing to do with this particular woman’s protest.

فيلم؛ ميدان انقلاب چهارشنبه و اعتراض نمادين به حجاب اجباري. یک وقتهایی تاریخ را میخوانیم و از شهامت و جسارت امثال رزاپارکس ها برای به چالش کشیدن قدرت و اعتراض به ظلم و تبعیض غرق حیرت و حسرت میشویم... در حالی که حالا صدها و هزاران رزا پارکس ایرانی هستند که با همان شجاعت و با همان سرسختی به قوانین مرتجع و عقب مانده و تبعیض آمیز اعتراض میکنند و متاسفانه کمتر دیده میشوند و در بسیاری از مواقع با پوزخندی از کنارشان می‌گذریم. On Wednesday, Enghlab Ave. this brave woman who hung her scarf on a stick and waved it in the air in protest to compulsory hijab This girl was arrested by the security guards after her demonstration and the group of young people who supported her were also arrested. The girl was speaking about freedom to choose one’s own outfits and other youth were supporting her. The demand movement is advancing. Do you think the regime will respond to the demand for social rights? The Iranian police took a step back today and announced that from now on no one will be arrested for not wearing the hijab! #چهارشنبه_های_سفید #چهارشنبه_های_بدون_اجبار #whitewednesdays #نه_به_حجاب_اجباری

Une publication partagée par Masih Alinejad (@masih.alinejad) le