TikTokers Are Accused of Starting Forest Fires For Views

The fires created dramatic and dangerous backdrops in TikTok videos in Pakistan, which is going through a record-breaking heatwave.

May 18 2022, 12:51pm

Nosheen Syed, known as “Dolly” to her 11.5 million TikTok fans, faces charges for allegedly setting a forest fire while shooting a TikTok video in Pakistan’s capital city Islamabad. 

In the 11-second clip that has since been taken down, Syed dramatically walks down a forested hill covered in flames in slow motion with a trending pop song that mentions “setting fire” playing in the background. The caption posted with the video shot allegedly in the Margalla Hills National Park reads, “fire erupts wherever I am.”

Syed is not the only Pakistani TikToker who has been accused of setting a forest fire for views. Officials say it is an emerging trend in a country that is suffering from a record-breaking heatwave. 

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“Young people desperate for followers are setting fire to our forests during this hot and dry season,” tweeted Islamabad Wildlife Management Board chairperson Rina S Khan Satti. “These psychotic young people have to be caught and put behind bars immediately.” 

Earlier this month, a man in Abbottabad city was arrested for intentionally starting a forest fire to use as a backdrop in his video. In another recently released video, two men are seen appearing to start a forest fire then running away from it while music plays in the background. 

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Scorching temperatures have peaked at 51 degrees Celsius (124 degrees Fahrenheit) in different parts of the country. Forest fires are common from mid-April through to the end of July, and are caused by high temperatures, lightning and slash-and-burn farming.

The hills where the video was filmed are an extension of the Himalayan mountain range and a natural habitat of many endangered plants and animals. They host 600 plant species, 250 bird varieties, 38 mammals and 13 species of reptiles.

The police complaint filed against Syed under the country’s environmental protection laws states that, “the area [filmed] is part of Margalla Hills National Park which has reported multiple incidents of wildfires recently which have damaged the ecosystem.” 

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Syed has denied starting the fire. In a statement released by her assistant, she also said that there was “no harm in making videos.”

In a video filmed shortly after her first controversial video, shared by a local journalist with VICE World News, the TikToker is shown standing in front of the fire next to a man who claims to have set fire to the forest to “clear it from snakes.”

Update: After this story was published the accused TikToker Dolly released a video disputing the location of the fire. She said it was not shot in a park in Islamabad but about an hour away at the side of a highway in Haripur.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly identified TikToker Dolly's name as Humaira Asghar. We regret the error. 

Follow Rimal Farrukh on Twitter.


Tagged:

Πακιστάν, heatwave, south asia, forest fires, global climate change, TikTok, worldnews

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