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Old photo of woman tortured reshared amid crackdown on PTI

Image is indeed from Pakistan, not Iran or Afghanistan as some claim on social media


Claim: A photo shows the badly-bruised back of a female PTI supporter who was tortured in custody following a government crackdown on the party in response to protests over Imran Khan’s arrest.

Fact: The image shows the back of a woman who was tortured at a dance event in Peshawar in 2021. It is unrelated to the PTI or its protests. It is also important to note that the photo is not from Iran or Afghanistan either.

[Content warning: This fact-check contains images of bruises due to torture.]

On 27 May 2023, Twitter account @ARYSabiirShakir posted an image (archive) showing a woman’s badly-bruised back with the following caption:

“سیاسی گرفتاریاں اور مقدمات ہوتے دیکھے تھے لیکن ماؤں بہنوں کے ساتھ یہ بے شرمی انسانیت اور سیاست کے منہ پر طمانچہ ہے. سب کو معلوم ہے یہ بے شرمی کون کر رہا ہے.
[I have seen political arrests and court cases but this shamelessness with mothers and sisters is a slap on the face of humanity and politics. Everyone knows who is behind this shamelessness.]”

Background to viral photo

Protests erupted in the country when the former prime minister and chief of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Imran Khan, was arrested by Pakistan Rangers on 9 May from court premises as he was set to appear in a hearing in the Al-Qadir Trust case.

In the ensuing crackdown by the Shehbaz Sharif-led federal government, police “arrested more than 1,650 protesters in Khan’s home province of Punjab for violence,” according to an 11 May 2023 report (archive), which cited the police chief’s office, while 80 PTI workers “were also arrested in the southwestern city of Quetta”.

The demonstrations against the former PM’s arrest had left at least eight people dead, 1,400 detained, and 145 police officers wounded, according to a report (archive) that cited authorities.

Khan was later released when the Supreme Court of Pakistan intervened, a 14 May report (archive) said.

Fact or Fiction?

Soch Fact Check used reverse image search tools to ascertain the source of the image and, through Yandex, found that the picture was linked to the Mahsa Amini protests in Iran in 2022; these posts can be found here, here, and here — the third of which is marked as media “presented out of context” on Twitter.

It was also linked to the aftermath of the Afghan Taliban’s takeover of the government following the withdrawal of American troops from the country in this tweet.

We then used some keywords in combination with our search, as well as Google Lens, to narrow down the results and found two tweets — 5 March (archive) and 7 March (archive) — from 2021. In the comments under the former link were more pictures, which can be seen here (archive).

We also found that the Twitter account of the Peshawar Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) responded (archive) to the aforementioned 5 March tweet, writing:

“ڈانسنگ گرل وفا پر تشدد کے واقعہ میں نامزد ملزمان کے خلاف فوری ایکشن لیا گیا۔ ڈی ایس پی ریگی کی سربراہی میں بھاری پولیس نفری نے منصور نامی شخص کے حجرہ سے 19 مشتبہ افراد کو حراست میں لےلیا ہے جن کی تلاشی لینے پر مذکورہ حجرہ سے اسلحہ، کارتوس، شراب اور دیگر سامان برآمد کرلیا گیا ہے۔
[Immediate action was taken against the named accused in the incident of violence against ‘dancing girl’ Wafa. Police force under the leadership of DSP Regi has detained 19 suspects from the house of a man named Mansoor.]”

The same response is also available on the Peshawar CCPO’s Facebook page here (archive).

A news report (archive) confirms the incident, noting that police “arrested 20 people over torture of a female dancer during a party” and authorities were “making raids to arrest the main suspect, Mansoor Khan, a local landlord, who had arranged the party for his girlfriend, and badly tortured the dancer”.

Other signatories of the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN), including FactCrescendo and India Today, also came to the same conclusion after they investigated the image when it was shared with claims that it shows a woman in Afghanistan and Iran, respectively.

Lastly, @ARYSabiirShakir — the account that posted the viral image in question — is a “fan page” of ARY News anchorperson Sabir Shakir, whose actual account has a verified Twitter Blue check mark.


Soch Fact Check found the false claim here (archive), here (archive), and here (archive) on Twitter, while on Facebook, it was found here (archive) and here (archive).

Some people attempted to debunk the image, claiming it is a “propaganda photo” from Iran or from Afghanistan; those claims are false as the photo is indeed from Pakistan but unrelated to the PTI.

Conclusion: The image shows the back of a woman who was tortured at a dance event in Peshawar in 2021. It is unrelated to the PTI or its protests. It is also important to note that the photo is not from Iran or Afghanistan either.

Background image in cover photo: Ehsan Habashi

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