Several social media users are circulating a photo of a woman severely wounded in the face, claiming her to be one of the “victims of Hazara genocide” and “gender-based terrorism” in Afghanistan, following the recent bombing of an education centre in Kabul.
On September 30, a suicide bomber reportedly killed at least 53 people – mostly girls from the minority Hazara ethnic group – outside an education centre in Kabul. A total of 110 people were injured in the explosion.
Who are Hazaras?
Hazaras are historically the most discriminated ethnic minority group in Afghanistan and have long faced violence and discrimination. According to a 2018 United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) report, most attacks by the Taliban on civilians in Afghanistan are directed towards the country’s minority population, most of whom are ethnic Hazaras, which are the third largest ethnic group of Afghanistan. Around 10 per cent Muslims in Sunni-majority Afghanistan are Shiite and almost all of them are Hazaras. The Taliban as well as the Islamic State are Sunni groups.
According to a report in the Asiana Times, following the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan, persecution against the Hazara community has increased. Shiite Hazaras in Afghanistan have long endured persecution, with the Taliban being accused of victimising them during their initial control from 1996 to 2001. Additionally, Hazaras are often the subject of atrocities by the Taliban’s adversary, the ISIS affiliate in Afghanistan with both organisations viewing Hazaras as heretics.
Newschecker first ran a reverse image search, which led us to the same picture in Getty Images, a US media company which supplies stock photos.
The photo is titled “Afghanistan’s War Wounded”, dated April 9, 2016, followed by a lengthy caption. The caption stated that the woman’s name is Razia Noorizada Didar, 30, who lost sight in her left eye, and has several fractured bones, while her face is scarred from burns and shrapnel. “She says her life is shattered and she wants to leave Afghanistan. The employees had finished a day’s work at Tolo TV, one of Afghanistan’s largest entertainment channels, when they boarded a company bus in Kabul that was rammed by a car driven by a Taliban suicide bomber. Seven people were killed and at least 25 wounded in the attack,” the caption read, adding that the photo was clicked by Paula Bronstein, a contributor to Getty Images. There is no mention of Raza belonging to the Hazara community.
We then ran a keyword search for “Kabul Tolo 2016 suicide attack”, which led us to multiple news reports, including BBC, Tolo News, Al Jazeera, from January 2016, stating that a Taliban suicide car bomber detonated explosives near a bus carrying staffers from Tolo TV in Darulaman Road in Kabul, killing at least seven staff members – including three female employees — and wounding 26 others. According to BBC’s news report, “Tolo had implemented tighter security measures in recent months after the Taliban threatened it and another privately-run news channel, 1TV, over their coverage of the fight for Kunduz, calling them ‘satanic networks’.” There was no Hazara genocide angle across the reports.
We also found another photo of Razia in this entry by Bronstein for Pulitzercenter.org, titled “Paula Bronstein on the Silent Victims of Afghanistan’s War”. The caption stated, “Razia Noorizada Dhar was working at Tolo TV…when the company’s bus was rammed by the car of a Taliban suicide bomber. Seven people were killed and at least 25 wounded in the attack. Image by Paula Bronstein, Afghanistan, 2015.” The viral photo also appeared in a TIME magazine feature, dated June 29, 2016.
We have reached out to Bronstein and will update this article once a response is received.
A photo of a woman survivor from a 2016 suicide attack against a TV channel in Kabul is being falsely shared as the picture of a Hazara survivor from the September 30, 2022 bombing at an education centre in the Afghanistan capital.
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