Watch out for these fake images of the Turkish offensive on Afrin

Screengrab of a video purporting to show Turkish planes attacking Afrin. The video was originally posted on a Turkish YouTube channel.
Screengrab of a video purporting to show Turkish planes attacking Afrin. The video was originally posted on a Turkish YouTube channel.

In the wake of Turkey’s ground offensive on the Kurdish enclave of Afrin in northern Syria, several fake images have been shared online.

On Saturday, the Turkish army carried out strikes against the Kurdish YPG militia, who claim to have pushed back the offensive. At least two people died in the clashes.

When the fighting broke out, many Turkish and Arabic-language social media users took to Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to post striking images… many of which have nothing to do with the situation in Afrin. The FRANCE 24 Observers team joined forces with our partner to bring you a selection of the fake images circulating online.

Pro-Erdogan television stations broadcast images that actually date back years

Some Turkish media organisations got caught up in the fake image madness. These amateur images were broadcast on January 20 by A Haber, a private television station that is extremely popular in Turkey and known for its pro-government leanings. The presenter claimed that these images show exchanges of artillery fire between theTurkish army and the YPG in the region around Afrin .  

Just one issue… this same footage was posted on YouTube in August 2014, which means that the footage can’t possibly show the recent fighting in Afrin. In fact, whoever posted the footage back then claimed that it shows clashes between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian troops in the region around Donetsk, in southern Ukraine.

However, according to the site, this footage is actually even older than that. Their journalists discovered that this footage was originally taken in September 2012 and shows tactical exercises being carried out by the Russian Armed Forces in the Caucasus.


A clash between the Turkish army and the YPG… but not in 2018

This video has also been shared on multiple Turkish and Arabic-language YouTube accounts in the days since January 21. According to social media users, the footage shows Turkish fighter planes bombing Kurdish targets in the Afrin region.

However, a simple reverse image search on the YouTube Data Viewer turned up the same video… posted in October 2016.

The footage, which was originally broadcast by Turkish news agency DHA, was filmed during Operation Euphrates Shield, an offensive led by the Turkish army and Syrian rebel groups against the YPG and the Islamic State group in February and March 2016.


Dutch fighting squads above Afrin?

This video filmed from the cockpit of an F16 has been posted on several different YouTube accounts since Sunday. The people who posted this video claims that it showed squads of Turkish fighter jets on a bombing mission over Afrin.

However, a simple search on the YouTube Data Viewer, which tracks down previous occasions that the same video was posted to YouTube, revealed that this video was actually filmed on April 30, 2013.

The original post lacks a Turkish voice speaking off-camera, which were added to later versions in an attempt to deliberately manipulate the viewer. In actuality, this video was filmed not in Syria, but during an aviation display held in the Netherlands for the coronation of King Willem-Alexander. 

Russian soldiers or members of Hezbollah?

This photo has been shared by several different Twitter users since Saturday, who claim that it shows Russian soldiers taken prisoner by the YPG in the region around Afrin.

However, a quick search on Google Images reveals that, in reality, the men in the photo are actually members of the Lebanese Hezbollah who were taken prisoner by a group of Syrian rebels in Aleppo in February 2015.

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