A photo has been extremely viral on social media recently, showing a woman with a battered face facing a group of men. Posts sharing this image claim that the woman in the photo is Captain Safia Ferozi, the second female pilot to be inducted into Afghanistan's air force, who is seen being stoned to death publicly by the Taliban.
BOOM found such claims to be false; the photo is from a 2015 incident of mob lynching of a woman named Farkhunda Malikzada, a 27-year-old student of Islamic studies who was killed by a mob in the streets of Kabul, on suspicion of burning the Quran. Furthermore, we found no recent credible news report on Ferozi and her whereabouts.
We have reached out to Ferozi, and are yet to get a response. The story shall be updated if and when she gets back to us.
The image is viral in the backdrop of the rapid takeover of power in Afghanistan by the Taliban, following the withdrawal of troops of the United States, and its allies, from the region, after a 20-year-long war. This adds to a growing list of false claims observed by BOOM on social media, since the Taliban's takeover of Kabul, and the fall of the Afghan government.
The Fake Post
Twitter user Eugene Sangeet Sagar (@SangeetSagar13), had shared the viral image on Wednesday evening, with the caption, "Safiya Firozi, one of the four lady pilots of the Afghan Air Force. Stoned to death in public this morning."
You can find an archive of the tweet here. (Trigger Warning: The image maybe disturbing to some readers.)
We searched for keywords "safiya firozi" and found a number of posts on Facebook carrying a screenshot of the tweet by @SangeetSagar13. Each post added its own caption (in English, Hindi and Telegu) and made the similar false claim about the woman in the photo being Ferozi.
Similar claims were viral on Twitter as well.
We also found an article by an obscure website XYZ, which carried the tweet by @SangeetSagar13 to make an elaborate report on how Ferozi was killed.
Furthermore, we also noticed that all of the accounts 'reporting' on Ferozi's death were of Indian users. We were not able to find any such claim made by Afghan accounts.
BOOM did a reverse image search of the viral photo, which led us to a large number of search results about the "Lynching of Farkhunda". Upon searching further, we found that it referred to the murder of Farkhunda Malikzada, who was publicly lynched by an angry mob in December, 2015, on suspicion of burning the Quran.
Malikzada had argued with a mullah, or religious teacher, about his practice of selling charms to women at a shrine. In the course of the argument she was accused of burning the Koran and a crowd overheard and attacked her. The police later found the allegations to be incorrect, and arrested 49 people, including 11 police officers, for her murder.
Looking through the news coverage of the incident, we found a footage of the mob lynching, published by the New York Times. (The footage is quite disturbing, and we advice caution to our readers before opening the link.)
Towards the end of the footage, we found a frame that was an exact match for the photo going viral.
This confirmed that the photo is from the 2015 lynching incident, and that the person in the photo is not the Afghan pilot Safia Ferozi, but student of Islamic studies Farkhunda Malikzada.
Ever since the Taliban stormed its way to Kabul, and took control over Afghanistan, there has been a surge in false and misleading claims around the topic. BOOM has already debunked ten such false claims already, and the list seems to grow by the day.
If you come across any unsourced or obscure claims about the present situation in Afghanistan, do send it over to us on our WhatsApp helpline number (+91 7700906588).
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