Old video shows fight outside Turkish embassy in Tokyo, not Kurds 'causing mayhem in Saitama'

An old video of Turks and ethnic Kurds brawling outside the Turkish embassy in Tokyo has resurfaced in posts that falsely claim it shows Kurdish migrants "causing mayhem" in Saitama while they demanded Japan loosen its immigration policies. The video has in fact circulated since October 2015 in reports about scuffles outside Turkey's embassy, where hundreds of Turkish citizens had gathered for early voting in the country's elections.

"Kurdish immigrants causing mayhem in Saitama, Japan," reads part of the Thai-language caption of a video shared on social media platform X on February 21, 2024.

"They demand the government change migration policies so more of them can enter the country."

According to a report by Kyodo News, around 2,000 ethnic Kurds -- a stateless people who have long faced persecution -- live in Saitama (archived link).

The video, which has more than 1,000 shares, shows groups of people fighting as police attempt to break up the scuffles.

Screenshot of the false X post, captured on March 26, 2024

The same video was shared with similar claims elsewhere on X in Thai here and in English here and here. It was also shared in both Thai and English on Facebook.

Comments on the posts suggest some users believed the fighting shown in the video was linked to Japan's immigration policies.

"Japan should tighten its visa rules for people from the Middle East to protect its national security and cultural identity," read one comment.

Another said: "Why won't the Japanese grant refugee status to Thais? They allowed in the Muslims, who are trouble makers."

Japan enacted an immigration law in June 2023 that allowed the government to deport failed asylum seekers, despite pushback from opposition parties and rights groups (archived link).

There was also concern over the status of several hundred Kurds who came to Japan following the devastating earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria in February 2023 (archived link).

But the video that has surfaced on social media is unrelated to Japanese immigration policy -- it has circulated since October 2015 in reports about Turks and Kurds fighting outside the Turkish embassy in Tokyo.

'Election fight'

A reverse image search using keyframes from the video led to a report by Turkish news agency Medyascope published on October 25, 2015 (archived link).

The report's headline translates to English as: "This is how the election fight in front of the Tokyo embassy was reflected on Periscope and Japanese media".

An embedded YouTube video includes the footage shown in the falsely shared video at its 1:19 mark (archived link).

An AFP correspondent in Tokyo confirmed the footage was taken from a Japanese media report, pointing out it includes the logo for Japan News Network (archived link).

Below are screenshot comparisons between the video in the false X post (left) and the YouTube video uploaded by Medyascope (right):

Screenshot comparisons between the video in the false X post (left) and the YouTube video uploaded by Medyascope (right)

At the 1:23 mark of the falsely shared video, an emblem resembling the Turkish flag can be seen near a black gate. These features correspond to Google Street View imagery of the Turkish embassy in Tokyo (archived link).

Below is a screenshot comparison of the false post (left) and the Turkish embassy in Tokyo as shown on Google Street View (right), with corresponding features highlighted by AFP:

Screenshot comparison of the false post (left) and the Turkish embassy in Tokyo as shown on Google Street View (right)

AFP reported that at least 12 people were injured in the fighting outside the embassy ahead of the November 2015 election, which came at a time of escalating violence in Turkey's mainly Kurdish southeast.

The  report said the cause of the fight was not immediately clear, but Jiji Press, quoting a Turkish voter, said the clash began after Kurds tried to display the flag of a pro-Kurdish party.

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