U.N. says shocking photo of refugees in Syria is no fake

United Nations Relief and Works Agency says image showing hundreds of Palestinian refugees is ‘entirely genuine’

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A United Nations agency has denied suggestions that a shocking image of hundreds of Palestinian refugees in Syria is a fake, following speculation on social media that the picture had been digitally altered.

The image, above, shows a throng of people queuing for food at the Yarmouk camp in Damascus, with men, women and children stretching as far as the eye can see. The picture attracted millions of retweets when used as part of a humanitarian social-media campaign pressing for greater access to those trapped in Syria.


But some bloggers and social-media users doubted the authenticity of the image, prompting a firm denial from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) that it manipulated it.

“The photo is an exact replica of reality,” UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness told the New York Times. “I can understand why that reality would beggar belief. But in the 21st century, such a scene exists. People are incredulous because it’s hard to believe.”

The image was reportedly shot on Jan. 31, and went viral online. The Guardian called the scene in the photograph one of “unimaginable desolation,” while Egyptian newspaper al-Bawaba termed it “apocalyptic.” Britain’s Daily Mail called it “a biblical picture of suffering.”

Yet some people on social media sites and in the blogosphere expressed doubt. “This is a composite, and will do harm. look closer,” wrote one. Some pointed to the color saturation in the image, and the apparent straight-cropping of a woman’s robe.

Despite such concerns, the below UNRWA video of the scene seems to add proof to the authenticity of the image.

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