Fact Check: Video Does NOT Show A Car Full Of Kids 'Ready To Be Sold' For Sex, Organ Trafficking

Fact Check

  • by: Uliana Malashenko
Fact Check: Video Does NOT Show A Car Full Of Kids 'Ready To Be Sold' For Sex, Organ Trafficking Unsafe Driving

Does a viral video show a child trafficker caught while driving a sedan with 25 children in Uzbekistan? No, that's not true: According to local law enforcement and local news reports, the reason for the traffic stop was unsafe driving, not a suspicion of kidnapping, child enslavement or involvement in some black market medical deals. An academician with knowledge of the region and appropriate language skills confirmed to Lead Stories that the footage did not discuss child trafficking.

The story appeared in a post (archived here) published on Instagram on December 22, 2023. It opened:

#Repost from @djbigxatl
A driver was detained while suspiciously transporting 25 children in Uzbekistan. He ended up admitting that the children were going to be sold for s=xual purposes & organ harvesting. We Don't Just Disappear .

My issue with this how did he load up this mny kids without anybodysaying anything? Leave a comment.

This is what the post looked like on Instagram at the time of writing:

Screen Shot 2023-12-22 at 10.27.46 AM.png

(Source: Instagram screenshot taken on Dec 22 15:27:46 2023 UTC)

The footage showed an officer helping children to get out of the overcrowded car whose size was an apparent mismatch to the number of passengers the driver attempted to transport. Some kids looked upset but appeared to be physically unharmed.

The video was originally posted (archived here) by a Telegram account of the Road Safety Service of Uzbekistan's Ministry of Internal Affairs on September 16, 2023. The caption, as automatically translated by Google, reads:

The violation of the driver who took 25 young children in his car was discussed in the neighborhood with the participation of the general public.

The use of the pronoun "his" in the initial caption appears to be an inaccuracy of automatic translation. As further inquiry showed, the driver was not a man, but a woman.

On the same day, a longer version of the video was posted on the agency's YouTube channel (archived here) under the title translated by Chrome:

Uzbekistan (archived here) is a nation in Central Asia that has been independent since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. Besides Uzbek, its populations speak Russian and Tajik.

The incident occurred in the Bukhara region, and the videos were recorded in Uzbek.

A Uzbek-speaking person with an academic background in Central Asian studies was asked by Lead Stories to review the footage. The person, who asked that his name not be used for attribution, said that the footage and audio did not mention anything that could remotely suggest the incident was related to child trafficking in any way. According to him, when stopped, the female driver said that "the distance is short." In response, as the camera panned to the highway, the officer emphasized that it was a major road and asked the woman how she could even think of transporting children that way.

According to local news coverage (archived here) translated by Chrome, the driver was a private kindergarten teacher who was trying to solve logistical issues:

...a discussion of the incident took place with the participation of traffic police officers and residents.

The department's press service, which reported the incident, reproached the children's parents for not being able to provide transportation for their children to kindergarten and back.

Cases where drivers transport a large number of children from kindergartens to their homes have occurred before (see materials on the topic). Usually a Damas microvan is used for this.

Roughly half a year before, a similar incident had taken place in a different location in Uzbekistan: A Damas microvan driver transported 25 children in it. According to the Road Safety's Telegram channel (archived here), such violations are punished by a fine, as translated by Chrome:

📘According to the rules, it is forbidden to transport children under 12 years of age in the front seat of a vehicle without a special restraint device. Also, the number of transported passengers should not exceed the amount specified in the technical description of the vehicle.

📗According to Article 128 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Uzbekistan , drivers who violate the rules of human transportation will be fined in the amount of one-half of the base calculation amount.

Lead Stories found no primary sources referring to the incident as a kidnapping or trafficking case.

Previously, Reuters (archived here) debunked the same claim involving the video of the Bukhara incident. The news agency also concluded that the footage showed "a woman driving children home from nursery," not a trafficking operation.

Other Lead Stories fact checks concerning international stories can be found here.

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  Uliana Malashenko

Uliana Malashenko is a New York-based freelance writer and fact checker.

Read more about or contact Uliana Malashenko

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