The story of 2022, in ten amateur images

The France 24 Observers team selected ten images that left a mark on 2022.
The France 24 Observers team selected ten images that left a mark on 2022. © Observers

From the Russian invasion of Ukraine to the end to the right to abortion in the United States, the France 24 Observers team reported the stories of 2022 using photos and videos captured by citizens around the world. These citizens, our Observers, gave us a glimpse into their lives, whether it involved trying to survive the economic crisis in Lebanon, getting by under the Taliban in Afghanistan or surviving the gangs that rule Haiti. Let’s take a look at ten images that, for us, shaped 2022. 

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1. The Malian army is accused of carrying out extrajudicial killings 

In January 2022, our team used satellite images, amateur videos (which we analysed and geolocated) and eyewitness accounts to investigate the murder of several civilians in Nia Ouro, a village in central Mali. 

“We found the four bodies: they had their hands tied behind their backs and a bullet in their heads,” said one of our Observers, who accused the Malian Army of carrying out the killings. 

>> READ ON THE OBSERVERS - Investigation: Malian army accused of carrying out summary executions in Mali

 

2. Russian cluster bombs hit civilian zones in Kharkiv, Ukraine 

On February 24, 2022, the Russian army launched its invasion of Ukraine.  Throughout 2022, the journalists who make up the France 24 Observers team identified and verified hundreds of photos and videos of the war that were shared on social media.  These images enabled us to follow the evolution of the conflict day by day. In March, we investigated how Russians had targeted civilian zones in Kharkiv with their cluster bombs. 

>> READ ON THE OBSERVERS - Investigation: civilian zones in Kharkiv hit by Russian cluster bombs

 

3. Ukraine: People accused of looting tied to poles, stripped and beaten

Images circulated online at the beginning of the war in Ukraine showing people being beaten while tied to poles in the street. Some had their pants pulled down. 

In April, our team geolocated 17 of these videos that had been shared online. Many of the people being punished and humiliated in this way were accused of having looted abandoned homes and shops. 

Our team interviewed several sources who said that both Ukrainian security forces and citizens were carrying out these kinds of punishment. And while some of the population seemed to support this practice, which, on occasion, was also encouraged by the government, it is ultimately “illegal and unacceptable,” according to NGOs. 

>> RELIRE SUR LES OBSERVATEURS - Ukraine: People accused of looting tied to poles, stripped and beaten

 

4. 'We are on our way to death': In Saudi Arabia, four Uighurs risk extradition to China

On April 9, a plea for help appeared on social media. The video was filmed by a Uighur woman named Buheliqiemu Abula and shows her and her thirteen-year-old daughter in the back of a police car in Saudi Arabia. She says that the Saudi authorities were planning to send them back to China. 

NGO reports, journalistic investigations and eyewitness testimonies have all confirmed that the Chinese government is engaged in fierce repression of the Uighur, a Muslim minority. There are thought to be hundreds of thousands of Uighurs trapped in camps, where they are forced to work and sometimes tortured. While Beijing denies these allegations, several countries, including France have condemned China’s treatment of Uighurs. 

>> READ ON THE OBSERVERS -  'We are on our way to death': In Saudi Arabia, four Uighurs risk extradition to China

 

5. Taliban enforces burqa for female journalists: ‘We are the last ones resisting’

On May 19, women still working as journalists or TV presenters on Afghan television got the order to “cover their faces.” Yalda Ali, a TV presenter on TOLOnews, posted a video showing herself putting on all of the layers of clothing she needed to wear to conform with the dress codes enforced by the Taliban. 

In response to the new requirement, a number of male Afghan journalists wore black masks in solidarity with their female colleagues. The action spread and many journalists from around the world posted images of themselves wearing black masks along with the hashtag #freeherface.

>> FRANCE 24 Observers team - Taliban enforces burqa for female journalists: ‘We are the last ones resisting’

 

6. United States: videos denounce “fake abortion clinics”

In June, the United States Supreme Court overturned the 1973 ruling on Roe vs. Wade, thus giving states the right to ban abortion on their soil. 

In the meantime, activists took to social media to call out so-called pregnancy centres, which are clinics that look like they offer abortions services but actually operate with the sole aim of convincing women not to get an abortion. To do so, they often provide false information or make fake promises. 

>> READ ON THE OBSERVERS  - How 'fake clinics' are tricking people seeking abortions in the US

 

7. ‘We’ve gotten used to air strikes’: A Syrian documents Russian attacks in Idlib

Since 2013, Russian military planes have carried out an intense bombing campaign on civilian zones in northwest Syria, as part of their support for the Syrian regime. Even though numerous ceasefires were signed between 2013 and 2021, the Russian army has carried out tens of thousands of airstrikes targeting civilian zones, often dropping illegal weapons. Our Observer lives near Idlib, a town in northwestern Syria. He posts videos on Twitter that document his daily life to the rhythm of Russian bombs.  

>> READ ON THE OBSERVERS -   ‘We’ve gotten used to air strikes’: A Syrian documents Russian attacks in Idlib

 

8. Viral video of bank robbery highlights economic crisis in Lebanon 

People around the world watched a shocking video filmed in Beirut, Lebanon on September 14. The footage shows an armed woman robbing her own bank. In the days that followed, other civilians followed suit, robbing their own banks. These desperate people only wanted one thing— to have access to their savings after three years of restrictions on bank withdrawals.   

>> READ ON THE OBSERVERS - Amid an economic crisis in Lebanon, people are robbing their own banks

 

9. Haiti, in the grip of gangs

In November, the France 24 Observers team broadcast a special report called “Haiti, in the grip of gangs.” As part of this investigation, our journalists verified dozens of videos filmed by both residents and gang members in Port-au-Prince. 

The government rarely reacts to violence carried out by these armed groups and the Haitian authorities are often accused of remaining passive even when the gangs commit massacres. Several witnesses agreed to testify. 

>> READ ON THE OBSERVERS - Haiti, in the grip of gangs

 

10. How EU-made shotgun cartridges ended up being used to repress protests in Iran

In November and December, our team examined dozens of photos and videos taken in Iran showing the weapons used by Iranian security forces to clamp down on protesters.  

While most of the cartridges that appear in the photos and videos were manufactured in Iran, at least 13 cartridges discovered in eight Iranian villages have the logo of Cheddite, a French-Italian manufacturer. 

European Union sanctions have banned the sale of this type of weapon in Iran since 2011, meaning that the manufacturer may be held accountable. 

While Iranians are demanding answers, our team investigated.

>> READ ON THE OBSERVERS - How EU-made shotgun cartridges ended up being used to repress protests in Iran