No, Graffiti Did Not Appear Overnight in Iran Thanking President Trump

Illustration for article titled No, Graffiti Did Not Appear Overnight in Iran Thanking President Trump
Screenshot: Twitter

Have you seen the photo above doing the rounds on social media today in the wake of the assassination of Iranian military leader Qassem Soleimani? The Trump regime took credit for killing Soleimani overnight, and some conservatives claim that Iranians are thankful that Trump killed him. According to folks on Twitter, the graffiti on the wall says, “Thank you Trump,” supposedly tagged overnight to thank the president for killing Soleimani. But the image isn’t quite what it seems.

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Fox News producer Yonat Friling posted the image to Twitter, claiming that she got it from a protected source. (Friling’s tweet has since been deleted, it’s archived here.) But in reality, the photo is over a year old (at least) and can be traced back to a highly dubious source.

Illustration for article titled No, Graffiti Did Not Appear Overnight in Iran Thanking President Trump
Screenshot: Twitter
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The graffiti message does indeed roughly translate to something like “Good on ya, Trump,” according to Dr. Pedram Partovi, an associate professor at American University who spoke with Gizmodo by email.

“‘Damet garm’ is a slang expression that roughly translates to ‘thanks/good job/well done’ with the connotation that the message writer not only supports the action/rhetoric of the subject of the message but will also back them in their efforts,” Partovi told Gizmodo. “‘Damet garm’ literally means ‘your side is warm (because I’m standing by you).’”

But even if the translation is close, there’s plenty of evidence that the photo wasn’t taken today.

One of the earliest people to post the image appears to be the Twitter account of Heshmat Alavi, who has previously described himself as an activist working against the Iranian regime in Tehran. Alavi’s account posted a video of the wall on May 20, 2018, and screenshots from the video have circulated on the web ever since, claiming to show support in Iran for President Trump.

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Unlike the version that’s going viral today, which claims the translation from Farsi to English is “Thank you Trump,” Alavi claimed that the wall says “Way to go Trump.”

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Alavi has written articles for far-right websites like the Federalist and the Daily Caller, but the most curious thing about Alavi is that some people insist he’s not real.

The Intercept published an article on June 9, 2016, where two sources said that Alavi is operated by an Iranian opposition group called Mojahedin-e-Khalq, or MEK for short.

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“Heshmat Alavi is a persona run by a team of people from the political wing of the MEK,” Hassan Heyrani, a defector from the MEK, told the Intercept. “They write whatever they are directed by their commanders and use this name to place articles in the press. This is not and has never been a real person.”

Even more interestingly, Alavi tweeted these photos today, supposedly showing Iranians celebrating with pastries and cards that read, “Thank you Trump.” Those photos couldn’t be independently verified, but even if they’re real they don’t detract from the fact that Soleimani was incredibly popular inside of Iran. And even people who didn’t like him will likely rally behind the Iranian regime against an enemy they despise more: The Americans.

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Alavi did not respond to a request for comment about whether he’s a real person or not. But either way, we do know one thing for sure: This photo that’s going viral is old and has nothing to do with the assassination of General Qassem Soleimani.

“It is possible that this graffiti came from Iran,” Dr. Partovi told Gizmodo. “I don’t think it represents widespread public opinion in Iran.”

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“Even if the current government in Iran is unpopular with the vast majority of the Iranian population, Trump and his administration may be even more unpopular. Regular public opinion polling conducted by the University of Maryland, among others, bears this out.”

Matt Novak is the editor of Gizmodo's Paleofuture blog

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DISCUSSION

meega-nalla-kweesta
Meega Nalla Kweesta

In a world where journalistic integrity meant something she would be fined or investigated for this.

But that’s not our world.