Debunked: No, images of refugees do not show there were 'just men' on planes leaving Afghanistan

Social media posts have falsely described a photo from Turkey in 2018 as a flight leaving Afghanistan in recent days.

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A WIDELY SHARED photo of a plane full of men has been falsely described as a flight coming from Afghanistan. 

The photo, which shows a packed flight full of men looking at the camera, has been shared on Facebook and Twitter numerous times, with some social media users asking “where are the women and children?”. 

Cork City Councillor Ken O’Flynn also shared the image on his Facebook page yesterday morning and alleged the flight was coming from Afghanistan. 

Alongside the image, he wrote: “A flight coming in from Afghanistan. Not one women, not one child, just men. Checks and balances need to be put in place to ensure that these people coming into are genuine and not the brainwashed who have live under Sharia Law.” 

Screenshot 2021-08-17 162103 Ken O'Flynn Ken O'Flynn

Yesterday evening, O’Flynn posted a clarification regarding the above post, and said: “Earlier today, I wrongly attributed this photo to a flight out of Kabul possibly to America of Afghans, it was an honest mistake.” 

However, as of yesterday evening, the original post remained online. 

In his original post, O’Flynn said the photo was from Dave Atherton, who describes himself as a former contributor to Breitbart, a far-right news service renowned for spreading misinformation. 

The photo is actually of immigrants being returned to Afghanistan from Turkey in 2018.

The mislabelled photo began circulating online after the Taliban over the weekend took effective control of Afghanistan this week for the first time in two decades. 

The Taliban led a pariah regime from 1996 to 2001, infamous for a brutal rule in which girls could not go to school, women were barred from working in jobs that would put them in contact with men, and people were stoned to death.

There were frantic scenes at Kabul Airport on Sunday as Afghans trying to flee the Taliban takeover clung to an American plane as it prepared to take off.

People have been scrambling to the airport to escape Afghanistan as fears mount over the Taliban’s presence in the capital.

A number of human rights organisations have called on the Irish government to increase the number of resettlement places for Afghan refugees and to expedite international protection applications amid the ongoing crisis.

The calls come after it was confirmed Ireland will provide up to 150 additional humanitarian visas for Afghans under the Irish Refugee Protection Programme (IRPP). 

This is in addition to 45 visas already approved in recent days for Afghans in similar circumstances.

Ireland yesterday announced €1 million in humanitarian funding to support the people of Afghanistan. 

The photo in question was not actually taken in recent days. 

It appeared online in 2018 in an article posted by Anadolu Agency, a state-run news agency headquartered in Ankara, Turkey. 

The photo appeared in the article under the headline: “6,846 illegal immigrants from Afghanistan returned to their country.”

Screenshot 2021-08-17 162228 Screengrab Screengrab

The article outlines that the illegal immigrants from Afghanistan had entered Turkey illegally from Iran. 

It reported that the immigrants were being returned to Afghanistan via scheduled and chartered flights. It is in no way related to events in the country in recent days.

This type of misinformation about people trying to flee Afghanistan has also appeared on social media in other forms.

Another claim has centred on an image taken from inside a US military aircraft, showing more than 600 Afghans in the hold of the plane after it recently departed Kabul.

The now-viral image, obtained and posted by the respected military news site Defense One, was taken inside a US Air Force C-17 transport.

The Afghans crammed in the giant cargo hold on the Sunday night flight were among those approved for evacuation by US authorities, according to the site.

There has been some incorrect suggestions online that the picture only shows male refugees. However, women are visible at the bottom of the image. 

People have been cropping the photo and posting those versions online to make it look like there are fewer women on the flight. 

download Courtesy of Defence One Courtesy of Defence One

A spokesperson for US Central Command also confirmed to The Guardian that passengers on the flight included women and children, and were safely evacuated from Kabul to Qatar on Sunday.

Neither of the claims about the images above support the idea that only male refugees are on planes leaving Afghanistan: women and children are among those being seen to leave Kabul in the midst of the current crisis.

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