"REPORT: THREE SYRIAN 'REFUGEES; RAPE LITTLE GIRL AT KNIFEPOINT IN IDAHO." That all-caps headline has now been seen by millions thanks to conservative and conspiracy sites like Drudge Report and InfoWars, seemingly confirming people's worst fears about Syrian refugees. There's just one problem: the story is almost completely false.
The version flying around the anti-refugee corners of the internet sounds pretty disturbing and goes into unnecessarily graphic detail of an alleged knife-point rape in Twin Falls, Idaho, involving 13-, 10- and 8-year-old Syrian boys. The story goes on to say that the 13-year-old was congratulated by his parents and police were "unable to take any action due to the 'language barrier,'" because that's totally how police work.
If all of this sounds improbable, that's because the local prosecutor says it's mostly made up. There was a sexual assault at Twin Falls' Fawnbrook Apartments earlier this month, but County prosecutor Grant Loebs told the Twin Falls Times-News most of the information being spread on the internet does not match the case.
“There were no Syrians involved, there was no knife involved, there was no gang-rape,” Loebs told the Times-News on Monday.
The misinformation on the case is the result of a local group that is unhappy with Syrian refugees being resettled in the U.S., according to Loebs.
“There is a small group of people in Twin Falls County whose life goal is to eliminate refugees, and thus far they have not been constrained by the truth,” Loebs told the Times-News. “They have not been constrained by the truth in the past, and I don’t expect them to be constrained by the truth in the future.”
What we do know about the case comes from local police, who told residents at a local City Council meeting that there were three boys, ages 7, 10 and 14, involved in a "sexual assault" of a 5-year-old girl and that two have been charged after they reviewed cell phone video. The boys were of Iraqi and Sudanese backgrounds, but police do not know if they are refugees or not. The case sounds plenty awful already without needing to add inflammatory anti-refugee details to it.
Authorities are limited in how much information they can share, as investigations where both the perpetrator and victim are minors are kept confidential. This is standard law enforcement procedure, like say ending an investigation because of the "language barrier," but it also has spurred on those who see a conspiracy cover-up like one commenter at the City Council meeting, who ranted, “ISIS is here, the Muslim Brotherhood is here. There’s been violations already occurred by Muslims here[sic]. It needs to be addressed and if you don’t address it, there’s gonna be heck to pay."