Did Someone Fake this Picture of Restrained Men in Damascus?
Has the Syrian government been forced to chain young men together to recruit them into the military? An image purporting to be from Damascus certainly gives this impression, showing several young men being forced into a van, apparently tied together with a chain or rope, with soldiers standing by.
The controversial image
The image and the explanation for what it allegedly portrays are making the rounds nearly two months after a presidential decree by Assad on October 9, 2018, granting a general amnesty for four months to men who have illegally avoided conscription.
The apparent detention of men for military service depicted in this image caused considerable controversy on Syrian social media. Questions regarding the treatment of conscripts were brought up in discussions within pro-government networks on social media and even surfaced on pro-government media.
After this photo emerged, a version of the image without any restraints on the men also began to circulate. These users claimed that the picture without the restraints was the original and the version with restraints had been manipulated in an attempt to smear the Syrian government.
This article will assess the context around the different versions of the picture in an attempt to identify which one is more likely to be the original. It does not use techniques such as Error Level Analysis, which is unlikely to be an effective tool to analyse these images due to their low quality. It should be noted that this investigation uses currently available sources of information, and further information regarding this matter may yet emerge.
As timestamps on social media posts vary depending on platform, all times given will be in UTC.