The video, which is just over a minute long, shows approximately one hundred people uprooting freshly-planted saplings. “Planting trees is against Islam,” reads the caption on one of the most widely circulated posts featuring this video. The author of this post, who lives in India, says the footage was filmed in Pakistan, a majority Muslim country. The post was retweeted more than 10,000 times and has so far garnered more than two million views.
Shortly after social media users in India first started circulating this video online, it was picked up by people in Iran and in far-right groups in France who mocked the men uprooting trees for supposedly religious reasons.
Why it’s false
On August 9, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan officially launched a vast tree-planting campaign across the country, with the aim of planting 3.5 million trees in a single day. Local officials were told to choose appropriate locations for the trees in their home regions. In Khyber, a district in northern Pakistan, local authorities designated an abandoned piece of land for the trees.
That day, a group of volunteers calling themselves the “Tiger Forces” planted thousands of trees in the designated zone. But just a few hours later, hundreds of people came and ripped out the newly planted saplings.
Our Observer Umar Farooq lives in Khyber, Pakistan. He wasn’t an eyewitness to the incident, but he knows the region well.
What happened has nothing to do with Islam or any other ideology. The local authorities decided to plant trees on an arid strip of land that is claimed by two different local tribes, the Sipah and the Ghabi Khali. The local authorities have already negotiated with the Khali tribe and they were ok with the government about planting trees here, meanwhile the local authorities did not [do] the same with [the] Sipah tribe. However while some of the members of the Sipah tribe were ok with using this space to plant trees, others weren’t. They are the ones who came and ripped up all the newly planted trees.
That afternoon, elders from the Sipah tribe came to replant the trees. They also apologized for the younger members of their tribe, even though the damage was already done.