Panic and fear gripped Afghanistan after the fall of capital Kabul, following which a multitude of city residents flocked to the airport, in a desperate attempt to fly out of the country. Chaotic scenes had emerged from Kabul airport as wary Afghans scrambled to get a flight out of the country, with some of them clinging to the fuselage of planes, from which they fell to their tragic deaths.
Ever since the Taliban formally seized Kabul and declared its rule over Afghanistan, bloodcurdling pictures of people frantically trying to fly the country to escape the ensuing repression have been doing the rounds on the internet.
Although the Talibani leadership promised to have a more moderate approach this time around, the images that are in circulation on social media websites belie their assurance and hark back to their iron fist rule from 1996 to 2001.
As people around the world in Afghanistan fear that the Taliban’s claims of being restrained are nothing but a smokescreen, their apologists and sympathisers have fallen over themselves to come to the rescue of the Islamist group. Elaborate “fact-checks” are being bandied around to assert that some of the images and visuals that are going viral as ‘Taliban atrocities’ are either not from Afghanistan or are from the past.
These ‘fact-checks’ work as a propaganda tool in such a way that it casts a shadow of doubt in one’s mind that perhaps the images say for example, Afghans falling from sky as they clung on to planes taking off may not be real, because well, that viral video of Talibani beating up women was a decade old from Swat Valley in Pakistan. That perhaps, the video of woman passing over her infant to US Marine in a desperate attempt to save the child’s life is not from Afghanistan, because ‘fact-checkers’ fact-checked similar video and concluded that that video was from another war torn country and not recent from Afghanistan.
Unfortunately, a lot of these viral, heartbreaking images and visuals making rounds are real and from past few days and from Afghanistan too. Do not let these Islamist apologists masquerading as ‘fact-checkers’ water down the atrocities, panic and fear unleashed by the Islamist group.
Below are 5 images that have gone viral in the wake of the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan. Let’s fact-check whether these images are recently clicked or are from the time before the American troops routed the Taliban in 2001, as alleged by many “fact-checkers”, who are presumably bothered that the past instances of savagery could “malign” the terror group and dissuade people from believing their claims to moderation.
A bunch of people milling about on runway as a US aircraft prepares to take off
One of the images that instantly went viral soon after the Taliban walked into Kabul and declared its rule over Afghanistan was that of a US Air Force C-17 Globemaster III taxing on the runway, with a straggly mass of people milling around the aircraft.
On scrutiny, it was found that the image that was being shared on social media websites was a recent one, clicked on August 15, 2021, the day when the Taliban took over Kabul and formally announced its seizure of Afghanistan. The image was a screengrab of a video that was shot to highlight the chaotic scenes from the Kabul Airport, where a large number of people, desperate to fly out of the country to escape the Talibani atrocities were running around the US aircraft that was about to take off.
Scores of people clinging precariously at the steps leading to an aeroplane
Another image that went viral on the internet was about the unfolding crisis at the Kabul airport, where a group of men clung to the steps that led inside an aeroplane that was presumably evacuating people from Afghanistan.
In our investigation, we found that the image was recently taken, capturing the despair and desperation among people at the Kabul airport who wanted to eagerly escape the return of the Taliban rule. This picture was again shared by a raft of mainstream media organisations in India, including The Tribune, Free Press Journal and several others. It was also shared by international media organisations such as CNN, The Guardian, NBC News etc.
Hundreds of people crammed inside a US Air Force’s C-17 Globemaster III
Then there was the image from inside the US Air Force’s C-17 Globemaster III carrying evacuees from Kabul to Qatar. The picture showed a large number of people, into their hundreds, including men, women and children, sitting on the floor of what seemed like the inside of a carrier aircraft.
The extraordinary image of people being packed to capacity inside an aeroplane had gone instantly viral on the internet. It was shared by notable personalities across the world, highlighting the crisis unfolding in Afghanistan and underscoring the fear among Afghans desperate to escape an impending Talibani regime.
The picture was shared by the US defence and security news site Defense One and showed 640 people crammed into a C-17 Globemaster III, among the highest number of people ever carried in such an aircraft.
Image of an infant being handed over to US Marine Corps at the Kabul Airport
One more poignant image that captured the imagination of the world and drew their attention towards the Afghanistan crisis was that of an infant being raised on outstretched arms and plucked by a Marine on the other side of a razor wire-topped wall. The image triggered an emotional wave of reactions from netizens online, with many expressing their concern over the safety of the baby away from its parents and the fate of hundreds and thousands of children caught in the war between the Afghan armed forces and the Taliban.
Since many gut-wrenching videos and images have been doing the rounds on the internet, especially about infants and children being handed over to the Armed Forces stationed at the Kabul Airport, we tried to ascertain the authenticity of the above-shared image.
We found that the image was indeed from the Kabul airport and the security personnel in the picture belong to the US Armed Forces. Later, Major James Stenger of the US Armed Forces told the New York Times in an email that the baby had been reunited with the father and is safe at the airport. He said the baby seen in the visuals was taken to a medical treatment facility on-site and cared for by medical professionals, after which it was returned to the father.
Afghan men fall to their deaths from a C-17 aircraft
Another extremely unpleasant visuals being shared online was about men falling to their deaths from an aeroplane after it took off from the Kabul airport.
In our examination, we again found the images to be real. The pictures showed two dots falling away from the soaring aeroplane. It was later found out that two men, who had clung to the fuselage of the aeroplane at the time of departure had fallen to their deaths shortly after the C-17 Globemaster III had taken off from the Kabul Airport.
One of those who died after unsuccessfully clinging from the plane’s exterior was a 17-year-old Zaki Anwari, a footballer of the Afghanistan Youth National Team. Anwari was one of the two persons falling from a USAF Boeing C-17 plane while it had just taken off, and his identity was confirmed by the Afghan Directorate of Sports.
“Fact-checkers” understate Talibani atrocities by “fact-checking” old videos and images of their savagery
Even though the above images underscore the crisis that Afghanistan finds itself in after the Taliban takeover, there have been countless “fact-checks” being done about past videos and images to play down the bestiality and brutality associated with the terror outfit. Several so-called “fact-checkers” have tried to understate the Afghanistan crisis and downplay the fear and panic that has gripped Afghans by “fact-checking” old videos and images, essentially insinuating that their apprehensions are unfounded and the new-age Taliban is wrongly being defamed with the circulation of their old videos of cruelty.
Now, a dedicated bunch of “fact-checkers” are busy washing the Taliban’s laundry. They are sifting through the millions of images, videos shared on social media and trying to check whether the precise date, timestamp and geographical locations are in accordance with the current group of Talibani forces active in Afghanistan. The parameters obviously do not match, so the “fact-checkers” declare that X claim against the Taliban is fake, Y picture is from 2018, THAT image is not THIS Taliban at all. Here are some examples.
Recently, AP, Reuters and AltNews took it upon themselves to “clarify” that an image of where three women were seen with chains tied to their ankles and a man leading the chain was fake. It was apparently from Iraq and the chain was morphed. Fine. but does that mean Taliban atrocities against women were false claims? No. But by ‘fact-checking’ an old, unrelated image, the Taliban sympathising fact-checkers create an environment that perhaps videos and images of other atrocities are not real either.
This is also how innocent men and women are radicalised and made to believe that what the world is showing them is incorrect. That’s how ISIS propaganda worked. Thousands of young women from all over Europe willingly went to Syria to join the ISIS because they were told great things about Sharia as well as the Caliphate. They were also told that the reports in western media about the ISIS are fake and untrue and that they do not unleash such atrocities. Perhaps they had their own set of ‘fact-checkers’.
It is worth noting that just because some social media users have shared images from the past does not mean that the Taliban has suddenly transformed itself into a pacifist organisation, averse to violence and brutality. Regardless of what these “fact-checkers” try to prove with their mind-numbing “fact-checks”, the reality is that the Taliban continues to be a terror outfit that has little regard for human life and human rights. As the above images from the Afghanistan crisis prove, a sizeable population in the country still consider the Taliban as a repressive organisation, notwithstanding their claims to moderation and peace.