Does a Photograph Depict a 5-Year-Old Syrian Girl Handcuffed at Dulles Airport?

What's true and what's false about a widely shared and infrequently explained image taken of foreign visitors at Dulles Airport.

  • Published 2 February 2017


An Image depicts a five-year-old Syrian girl in handcuffs at Dulles Airport.

Collected via Twitter, February 2017


What's True

A Syrian man confirmed that a photograph depicts his family in detention at Dulles Airport awaiting deportation.

What's False

The man did not claim his family held green cards or sought asylum, and his daughter was not handcuffed by U.S. authorities.


On 30 January 2017 the tweet embedded above began circulating across social media, purportedly depicting a five-year-old Syrian girl placed “in handcuffs” by U.S. authorities at Dulles Airport.

The version displayed above was likely the most popular Twitter version of the photograph, one that was purportedly sourced from a since-deleted tweet:

Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas used the photograph to illustrate a diary entry about the barbarity of handcuffing toddlers, but he included little information about the accompanying photograph or the circumstances under which it was taken:

Not a threat, no need to handcuff, yet the people in power are monsters. It’s so patently absurd to handcuff ANY of these Muslim travelers entering the country on valid visas, residency documents (green cards), and even U.S. passports. But to do so to children is so grossly beyond the pale that no one could defend it—could they?

The Facebook page “American News X” reported that the image depicted a five-year-old girl in handcuffs at Dulles, adding that the photograph was broadcast by ABC on an unspecified date.

Eventually, Twitter user Ramez Snober (a Syrian whose location was set to “Deported from Dulles” in his proflie) stepped forward to explain the photograph and its origins.

One day before the image began circulating, Snober issued six tweets about the events leading up to the photograph. According to those tweets, Snober and his family are Syrian nationals who were attempting to vacation in the United States on B2 visitor visas, not foreign-born U.S. residents or refugees. Their visas were invalidated while they were in transit, and upon their arrival in the U.S. (at Washington Dulles International Airport) they were detained and eventually denied entry by U.S. officials:

Snober appeared surprised to discover photographs of his family’s experience at Dulles Airport were circulating online:

Snober stated that airport security agents were kind to him but expressed frustration about the sudden revocation of his family’s travel visas:

Most important, Snober clarified that the widely circulated image of his small daughter did not depict her in handcuffs, stating that his family’s feelings and freedom, but not their hands, had been cuffed:
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