A woman opened a pair of shoes made in Ethiopia and found something disturbing -- a note from a what appears to be a slave labor worker begging for help.
A picture of the note was shared on Reddit on Friday, quickly becoming one of the site's highest-voted links. The person who posted the picture claims it was taken by a friend, who found the note in a shoe box at a store where she works.
Another user claimed to have access to an exchange student, who provided a rough translation.
"'Greetings' or 'Salutations' something like that.
The next word is his name, or an identifier.
'make' or 'Produce' 'this shoe' or 'the shoe'
'Identifier or name again' 'hungry'
'Identifier or name again' 'Sad or depressed'
'Identifier or name again' 'afraid or scared'
'Soldier kill family'
WOW, that's crazy, he said the guy has very poor writing skills and that he isn't well educated at all. He said normally their language reads
left to rightright to left but he wrote it backwards possibly because he knows English is left to right. So everything is backwards.
A different user came to a similar translation, which reads, "[W]e are thirsty and over worked. Militia type soldiers are on top of each other watching us. Help us."
The note attracted thousands of comments, including many urging the user to share it with the American authorities to investigate.
There is another possibility for the note -- that it's a complete prank. So far, the evidence has been posted only to Reddit, the viral site that has a reputation as a source of some of the internet's biggest hoaxes. The anonymous nature of the site allows users to make claims with little or no backing, and while many (and indeed, most) of the postings are genuine, sometimes people with a need for attention are drawn to the often believing nature of users.
That appeared to be the case in 2011, when a user who went by the name lucidending claimed to be a 17-year-old diagnosed with terminal cancer. He answered questions from other users, shared his dreams of traveling to Ireland, and even collected money through an online fundraiser.
But the user never provided any proof of his diagnosis, leading to some skepticism among the site's moderators. An Oregon newspaper later exposed it as a hoax.
There is still the possibility that the note from Ethiopia is a similar hoax -- or that the picture could be real, but the translation made up.
While the story of the desperate note in the box of shoes from Ethiopia could also be a prank, it would not be the first time someone working in allegedly slave labor conditions would have reached out for help. In 2012, a New York shopper found a note reportedly written by a Chinese slave laborer and hidden in a Saks Fifth Avenue shopping bag.
"We are ill-treated and work like slaves for 13 hours every day producing these bags in bulk in the prison factory," the letter read. "Thanks and sorry to bother you."
The note was signed by a name named Tohnain Emmanuel Njong and included an email and passport photo, but the email bounced back and officials were not able to locate the man, DNAinfo noted.
As the report noted, there have been other cries for help tucked into products made in sweat shops.
"But a DHS official said it's not the first report of a cry for help letter from China ending up on American shores.
According to DHS senior policy adviser Kenneth Kennedy, the department was made aware of a woman in Oregon who made international news in 2012 when she discovered a similar letter detailing abuse and grueling labor in a Chinese prison when it fell from a Halloween decoration she'd bought at Kmart."
The note allegedly written by a slave laborer in Ethiopia and tucked into a shoe box could be genuine as well. Bloomberg reported last year that China has turned to Ethiopia as a source for cheap labor, with factories often operated under very questionable circumstances.
[Image via Reddit]