A video of a street play from Iraq is being shared online with a false claim that it shows a sex slave auction organised by terrorist group ISIS.
BOOM found that the video was staged for social awareness, and was part of an art performance shot in Erbil, Iraq.
The video shows a man approaching women dressed in burqas, removing their niqabs to see their faces and putting them back after. The video is being shared with the claim that the women are being enslaved, and the only people allowed to see their faces is their owner. One caption on Twitter reads, "This is sex slave market in 21st century by ISIS. If "liberals & moderate muslims" put half of the energy they put in playing victim card & dissemination of narrative of Islamophobia, these "slave markets" will end for sure. But, they will say ISIS doesn't represent Islam."
BOOM had previously debunked another video, made to raise awareness about sex slavery. A similar video showing a mock sex slave trade, made for spreading awareness, was being shared with false claims by several news channels and right-wing groups. Read our fact-check here.
This video is being shared in the backdrop of controversial Hindi film The Kerala Story, which claims to depict the plight of women from the state who have been abducted by ISIS and trafficked to regions such as Afghanistan and Syria. Read more about the filmmakers' claims here.
The post is also circulating on Facebook.
BOOM found that the video shows a street play titled 'The Unheard Screams of The Ezidkhan Angles', organised in March 2023 in Erbil, Iraq.
A reverse image search of some of the key visuals from the video on Google led us to a TikTok video uploaded by user Zhyar M Barzani. The post, uploaded on May 7, 2023, was shared with the caption, "By : Aryan Rafiq Art performans The Unheard Screams Of The Ezidkhan Angels 2023." The first 22 seconds of the video are an exact match to our viral video.
Click here to view.
Taking a cue from this caption, we looked for more details about this performance and found the Facebook profile of Aryan Rafiq, the director, who had shared an invitation for the performance on March 8. The post also mentioned the date and time of the event-- March 8 from 3 pm onwards, and the location was near Erbil Citadel.
Aryan Rafiq routinely posts about their art performances and artworks that highlight the atrocities inflicted on Iraqi and Iranian women.
Further, we geolocated the venue, Erbil Citadel in Kurdistan, Iraq and found that the architecture, specifically, the arches in the structure matched the ones in the viral video. Here is a comparison:
We also noticed that several members of the audience were recording the performance on their phones:
BOOM has reached out to Aryan Rafiq, the director of the performance via Facebook. This story will be updated upon receiving a response.
BOOM spoke to director Aryan Rafiq via Facebook who confirmed that the video was an art performance. Being a Kurdish from Iraq herself, she spoke about the performance and what it depicted, "The daughters of the Yazidis were sold in the market, and the men of ISIS would buy women by lifting the niqab and the veil so that they could see whether they are beautiful or not."
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