NOT REAL NEWS: A look at what didn’t happen this week

Aug 20, 2021, 7:43 AM | Updated: 10:20 am
FILE - The Afghan flag flies atop the presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday, Aug. 17, ...

FILE - The Afghan flag flies atop the presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021. On Friday, Aug. 20, 2021, The Associated Press reported on a photo circulating online that was digitally altered to make it appear that the Taliban flag was flying on the tower of the palace in Kabul on Sunday, Aug. 15, 2021. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul, File)

(AP Photo/Rahmat Gul, File)

A roundup of some of the most popular but completely untrue stories and visuals of the week. None of these are legit, even though they were shared widely on social media. The Associated Press checked them out. Here are the facts:


Photo from Iraq altered to create fake image of chained Afghan women

CLAIM: A photo shows three Afghan women chained to one another, walking behind a man who holds the end of the chain.

THE FACTS: The photo is fake. It was based on an old photo, and the chains were digitally added. Photographer Murat Düzyol told The Associated Press he took the original photo in Erbil, Iraq, in February 2003. Tweets sharing the altered photo were among several misleading social media posts that began to emerge after the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan on Sunday. Twitter users posted the manipulated photo and suggested that it showed women in Afghanistan walking behind a man. In the edited photo, chains were digitally added onto the ankles of the women, with the man holding the chain. There was no chain in the original photo. Also, it was taken in Iraq, not Afghanistan. “#AfghanWomen. God protect women and children because an institution like the United Nations has become impotent,” said a Twitter user who tweeted the altered photo. Over the years, the photo has been misrepresented and posted multiple times. One blog falsely stated the photo was taken in Afghanistan and said it showed an example of women walking about five paces behind their husbands. Düzyol, who lives in Istanbul, told AP he took the photo in 2003. Around that time, he often visited Iraq and took photos. The day the photo was taken, there was a ceremony commemorating Iraqi civilians who were killed in the city of Erbil, he said. “As people were returning to their homes after the ceremony, such a composition randomly appeared on the street. It’s a completely instant snapshot and completely natural,” Düzyol explained in an email. “The women obviously knew each other, but I’m not sure they knew the man.” Many fear the Taliban will reimpose a strict interpretation of Islamic law that was practiced when they ran Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001. At the time, women were barred from attending school and having jobs outside the home. They had to wear burqas and be accompanied by a male relative when they were in public. After taking over, the Taliban said they promise to honor women’s rights within the norms of Islamic law, but many Afghans are skeptical.

— Associated Press writer Arijeta Lajka in New York contributed this report.


Photo of Afghan men on plane is from 2018

CLAIM: A photo shows a plane full of Afghan refugees being evacuated from the country this week, with not a single woman or child among them.

THE FACTS: In fact, this photo appeared online as early as 2018. It shows Afghan refugees being sent back to their country from Turkey, according to a story at the time from Turkey’s state-run news agency, the Anadolu Agency. The photo looks down the aisle of an airplane filled with men, some of them waving at the camera. Social media users are sharing it as new this week with claims it shows only men, with no women and children, being evacuated from Kabul after the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan. “And not a single woman or child among them!” one Facebook user wrote alongside the picture. “As if the invasion of our southern border weren’t enough of a challenge. Now the biden Administration is flying in hardened, fighting-aged men from Afghanistan.” Another Facebook user wrote, “Another wave of ‘refugees’ is already heading to Europe, this time from Afghanistan.” But a reverse-image search reveals the picture does not show recent evacuation efforts from Afghanistan. The photo showed some 324 Afghan refugees who had entered Turkish territory illegally and were detained and sent back to Afghanistan in April 2018, according to an article on the Spanish-language version of the Anadolu Agency’s website. Photos captured this week show that hundreds of Afghan men, women and children have been evacuated from Afghanistan since the Taliban takeover.

— Associated Press writer Ali Swenson in New York contributed this report.


Photo digitally altered to show Taliban flag on Afghan presidential palace

CLAIM: A photo shows the Taliban flag flying on the tower of the Afghanistan presidential palace in Kabul on Sunday night.

THE FACTS: The photo is fake — an old photo was digitally altered to make it appear that the Taliban flag was flying above the palace. On Sunday, Taliban forces seized the presidential palace. The Associated Press took photos and video Tuesday showing that the Afghan flag was still flying from the building. The photo that was manipulated was first shared in 2020 and originally showed the palace adorned with Afghan flags. In the manipulated version, the Taliban flag replaces the Afghan flag. It looks clearly altered — the flag appears too rectilinear and the script too flat to be on a moving flag. The edited photo was shared across social media and by some media outlets, with captions saying it showed the fall of Afghanistan. The Taliban took over Afghanistan two weeks before the U.S. was supposed to fully withdraw its troops from the country. President Ashraf Ghani has fled the country. AP photos showed the Taliban inside the presidential palace on Sunday.


Video claiming to show Taliban fighters on trampoline is more than a year old

CLAIM: A video shows Taliban fighters jumping on a trampoline this week as they celebrate their return to power in Afghanistan.

THE FACTS: This video is not current and has circulated online for more than a year. In the days since the Taliban seized power across Afghanistan, capturing all major cities in less than a week, social media users have shared videos of the insurgents allegedly celebrating their victory in gyms, amusement parks and presidential suites. One such video, which social media users claim shows Taliban fighters rejoicing on a trampoline, has circulated since at least March 2020. The video of four men jumping on an expansive trampoline and one standing to the side was shared with captions like “Taliban’s terrorists right now” and “Taliban fighters celebrating their takeover of Kabul by Jumping on a Trampoline.” But it appeared on Facebook as early as March 31, 2020. It was also shared on YouTube on Aug. 28, 2020, with the caption, “Taliban first time trampoline.” It wasn’t clear who captured the original video or who was featured in it.

— Ali Swenson


Video showing shaking house is from Alaska, not Haiti

CLAIM: Video from a camera inside a home shows the house shaking from a 7.2-magnitude earthquake that struck Haiti on Saturday.

THE FACTS: The video being shared online shows an earthquake that struck nearly three years ago in Alaska, not Haiti. As images and videos emerged from Haiti following Saturday’s earthquake, social media users began misrepresenting the Alaska video from 2018 to suggest it showed the earthquake rumbling through a home in Haiti. More than 2,000 people have been reported dead in Haiti following the earthquake that struck the southwestern part of the Island. In 2010, an earthquake of similar magnitude left more than 300,000 dead in the country. Posts online Saturday shared the video showing the Alaska earthquake, with wording that suggested it showed the power of the earthquake in Haiti. The posts sharing the video said to pray for Haiti. The original video was shared to Twitter by James Easton on Nov. 30, 2018, when Alaska was hit with a 7.0-magnitude earthquake. At the time, The Associated Press reported that the earthquake left thousands without power and buckled roadways in some places. Easton told the AP via email that the video showed his home in Alaska. Easton tweeted the video, saying that he was “just a little bit shaken” by the earthquake. The video showed the house violently shaking and the camera footage soon being cut off by the quake. “It’s amusing to see the video pop up every so often, but the focus should really be on the actual damage in Haiti,” he said.

— Associated Press writer Beatrice Dupuy in New York contributed this report.


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              FILE - The Afghan flag flies atop the presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021.  On Friday, Aug. 20, 2021, The Associated Press reported on a photo circulating online that was digitally altered to make it appear that the Taliban flag was flying on the tower of the palace in Kabul on Sunday, Aug. 15, 2021.  (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul, File)


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NOT REAL NEWS: A look at what didn’t happen this week