Pakistan’s UN Envoy Criticizes India, but Uses Gaza News Photo to Do It

Posted by on Wednesday September 27, 2017 | Photojournalism

Pakistan's Maleeha Lodhi holds Heidi Levine's photo.

Pakistan's Maleeha Lodhi holds Heidi Levine's photo.

When Pakistan’s envoy to the UN accused India of attacking civilians in the disputed region of Kashmir, she waved a photo she claimed showed the bruised face of Kashmiri girl who had been struck by fire from a pellet gun used by the Indian army. There was one problem: The photo was taken in Gaza, not Kashmir.  Photojournalist Heidi Levine took the photo in 2014. It shows a Palestinian girl, Rawya Abu Joma’a, then 17, who had been injured in an Israeli airstrike.

“Normally a photojournalist would be honored to have their photograph shown before the UN General Assembly to help further show a global audience the horrific impact that war has on civilians,” Levine told PDN. “However, this is not the case and I feel not only shocked but ashamed to see such a mistake, as it compromises the dignity of Rawya.”


Pakistan UN envoy Maleeha Lodhi held up Levine’s photo at the UN general assembly on September 23, while arguing that India is conducting a “campaign of brutality inside Kashmir.” She was responding to claims by India’s external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj that Pakistan is “exporting terror.” Lodhi said the the photo shows “the face of Indian democracy in Kashmir.”

After reporters recognized the photo, Levine received a flood of emails and press requests. Levine says, “I was asked what I would like from Ms. Maleeha Lodhi in response to her mistake and as I mentioned earlier, my work was never meant ever to be about me, and I believe she owes an apology to Rawya.” She noted, “Rawya is not the face of India.”

Levine took the photo in 2014 at the Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, where abu Joma’a was recovering after an Israeli airstrike. The image was published in The New York Times, The Guardian and other publications around the world. Levine’s caption states that Rawya Abu Joma’a was wounded when two Israeli airstrikes struck her apartment building, killing her cousins and her sister. Abu Joma’a suffered multiple shrapnel wounds; the bones in one hand were crushed. (You can find the image and caption here.)

Levine says bloggers have sometimes used her work without her permission, but this was different. “I haven’t  seen my work misused without captions to this degree ever before and I have never heard of a photograph being misused like this at the UN or by other officials to this level. I hope I will never encounter seeing this again because it only undermines my efforts as a journalist and my commitment to uphold the highest standard of journalism I have spent my career committed to.”

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