Two photos have been shared hundreds of times in multiple social media posts that claim they show pro-government rallies in Iran held to counter anti-hijab protests that have rocked the country since mid-September 2022. Although thousands did attend the pro-hijab rallies, both photos have been shared in a false context. One pictureshows a pro-government demonstration in Tehran in December 2017, while the other picture shows the funeral ceremony for Iran's top military commander Qasem Soleimani, who was killed in a US strike, in the country's capital in January 2020.
A photo that shows women in black hijab filling the street was shared here on Twitter on September 24, 2022.
"Whereas Western media and desi liberals only see the protests of a handful of NGOs and Iranian women, why don't they see the hundreds of thousands of women marching today in favour of the hijab," the Urdu-language caption reads.
"Desi" refers to people of South Asian origins.
Screenshot of the first misleading post, taken on October 4, 2022
"Huge demonstrations in favour of the leader of the Islamic Revolution and hijab across Iran," says the Urdu-language caption.
"Death to those who oppose Vilayat e-faqih, death to America and death to Israel."
Screenshot of the second misleading post, taken on October 4, 2022
Vilayat e-faqih, which means the guardianship of the Islamic jurist, is the Iranian system of governance that has been in place since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, currently led by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
The photos circulated online shortly after thousands of people attended government-backed, pro-hijab rallies in several Iranian cities on September 23, 2022, in response to the uprising across the country.
The death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish woman on September 16, 2022 -- days after the morality police detained her for allegedly not wearing the mandatory hijab properly -- has sparked widespread protests, AFP reported.
Female protesters have been leading the anti-government demonstrations, defiantly burning their hijabs, cutting their hair and marching while chanting "Women, life, freedom!"
Iranian security forces' violent crackdown has caused dozens of deaths, according to multiple human-rights groups.
However, both photos have been shared in a false context.
A reverse image search found the first photo was published by the US-based Associated Press (AP) news agency in December 2017.
The photo's caption reads: "Iranian protesters chant slogans at a rally in Tehran, Iran, Saturday, Dec. 30, 2017. Iranian hard-liners rallied Saturday to support the country's supreme leader and clerically overseen government as spontaneous protests sparked by anger over the country's ailing economy roiled major cities in the Islamic Republic."
The photo also appeared in AP's report about the December 2017 protests, with a similar caption.
Below is a screenshot comparison of the picture in the first misleading post (left) and the genuine AP photo (right):
Screenshot comparison of the picture in the first misleading post (left) and the genuine AP photo (right)
A reverse image search found the second photo was published by Iran's state-run Mehr News Agency on January 6, 2020.
The picture was part of Mehr's photo gallery, titled in Persian: "The roaring flood of Tehran's people during the funeral ceremony of the martyr Soleimani."
On that day, mourners packed the streets of Tehran for ceremonies to pay respect to top Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani, who was killed in a US strike in Baghdad, AFP reported here and here.
Below is a screenshot comparison of the photo in the second misleading post (left) and the genuine photo from Mehr News Agency (right):
Screenshot comparison of the photo in the second misleading post (left) and the genuine photo from Mehr News Agency (right)
A photo of female protesters in hijab carrying placards and pictures of Khamenei, which also appeared in some social media posts, was indeed taken at a recent pro-government rally in the Iranian city of Qom.
It was published in a Mehr news report on September 23, 2022, headlined: "Pro-Islamic Establishment rallies in Qom, Tabriz."