UK charity which shares Syrian opposition “aims and objectives” benefits from Alan Kurdi tragedy

Update – formal complaints correspondence with the Charity Commission re: Hand in Hand for Syria: see here, here and here


Hand in Hand for Syria, the UK registered charity at the heart of the controversial 2013 BBC Panorama programme Saving Syria’s Children, is receiving all proceeds from a new fund established in honour of Alan Kurdi, the three year old who drowned along with his mother and brother as his family attempted to reach Greece from Turkey on 2 September 2015.

The Guardian reports that the Aylan Kurdi Fund was set up within 24 hours of the circulation of photographs of the boy’s body.  As of 9 September 2015 the fund had received over £50,000 in donations.

According to Saving Syria’s Children, Hand in Hand for Syria “helped set up” the largest refugee camp in Syria – Atmeh on the Turkish border.

In the documentary, two doctors working with Hand in Hand visit Atmeh and check up on hospitals run by the charity, including Atareb Hospital, Aleppo, where the BBC Panorama team filmed the dramatic arrival of alleged victims of an incendiary bomb attack on a school playground in nearby Urm Al-Kubra.  These scenesfirst transmitted just as the UK parliament voted on military intervention in Syria – have become the subject of worldwide scepticism.

The UK Charity Commission’s website states that Hand in Hand for Syria exists for “the advancement of health or saving lives”.  Until July 2014 the Facebook banner of Hand in Hand’s co-founder and chairman Faddy Sahloul read “WE WILL BRING ASSAD TO JUSTICE; NO MATTER WHAT LIVES IT TAKES, NO MATTER HOW MUCH CATASTROPHE IT MAKES”.  The image was removed shortly after it was commented on publicly. [1] [2]

fsfbbanner

Facebook banner of Hand in Hand for Syria’s co-founder Faddy Sahloul, deleted July 2014

Hand in Hand for Syria’s original three-star logo is plainly based on the flag adopted by the Free Syrian Army and the Syrian National Council. In 2014 the charity removed the stars from its logo.

Also on Hand in Hand’s executive team is Dr Rola Hallam, one of the two medics featured in ‘Saving Syria’s Children’.  The documentary tells us that “Rola’s family is from Syria and she lived here as a child.  Now she’s an intensive care doctor in London, specialising in paediatric medicine.”

On 30 August 2013, the day after the BBC’s initial report on the alleged Aleppo incendiary bomb attack, Dr Hallam appeared on BBC’s Newsnight programme expressing her profound disappointment at parliament’s rejection of a military strike against Syria.

Picture2

Dr Rola Hallam, Atareb Hospital, Aleppo on 26 August 2013, being interviewed as alleged victims from an incendiary bomb attack on a school in the village of Urm al-Kubra arrive (Panorama Saving Syria’s Children, BBC One, 30 September 2013, http://bit.ly/1wO3p2w)

350px_Dr_Rola

Dr Hallam: “I just feel that the world has failed Syria for the last two and half years and now is the time to act” (Newsnight, Syria crisis: Doctor criticises Miliband over MPs’ vote, BBC Two, 30 August 2013, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-23909554)

Dr Hallam’s father is Dr. Mousa al-Kurdi.  According to a 2013 article by Dr Saleyha Ahsan – the other Hand in Hand for Syria medic featured in ‘Saving Syria’s Children’ [3] – Dr al-Kurdi is “involved politically with the Syrian National Council”. [4]

In an interview for Al Jazeera Dr al-Kurdi passionately advocates for the Syrian National Council’s recognition as the “sole representative” of all Syrians and relates how, following his address to the Friends of Syria summit in Istanbul in 2012 – attended by Hillary Clinton – he personally told Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu “You’re not doing enough” and demanded of Professor Davutoğlu and several other foreign ministers present, including the US State Department’s Victoria Nuland, “either you defend us or you arm the Syrian Free Army to defend us – you have the choice”.

At a Save the Children event in London in November 2013 Dr Hallam stated that her father “is certainly not a member of the Syrian National Council; he is a gynaecologist, who like most Syrians has taken an interest in what’s happening in his country”. 

Picture1

Dr Mousa al-Kurdi, Dr Rola Hallam’s father, is interviewed on Al Jazeera soon after he addressed the Friends of Syria summit in April, 2012. (http://bit.ly/1gal7vh) Hillary Clinton, then US Secretary of State, is seen arriving at the meeting.

If Hand in Hand for Syria’s affiliations were not abundantly plain from the above, the Director of the BBC’s Editorial Complaints Unit, Colin Tregear, has in the course of correspondence about ‘Saving Syria’s Children’ observed that:

“I think it was implicit that the charity was working in an area of Syria controlled by the opposition and would therefore be likely to share its aims and objectives (as opposed to supporting the Syrian government).” [5]

However, should it be required, there is further evidence.

A nurse seen treating the alleged incendiary bomb victims alongside Dr Saleyha Ahsan in ‘Saving Syria’s Children’ was subsequently photographed at Atareb Hospital wearing a Hand in Hand for Syria tunic and ostensibly tending to the injuries of a child “rebel” combatant.  The web article which hosts the photograph overtly celebrates the fifteen year old’s supposed battle prowess[6]

Nurse3

The nurse on the left appears at 31:17 in Saving Syria’s Children (http://bit.ly/1wO3p2w) in scenes filmed at Atareb Hospital, Aleppo on 26 August 2013. Dr Saleyha Ahsan is wearing the checked shirt.

http://on.fb.me/1LFSvrI

The same nurse appears to treat a child combatant in this image on a web page (http://slnnews.co/?p=2578) dated June 2014. She is wearing a Hand in Hand for Syria tunic (the word “Hand” is plainly visible upon enlarging the image). Other images of the child are featured on this Facebook page http://on.fb.me/1LFSvrI.

Picture2

This site boasts of the supposed fighting prowess of fifteen year old “Mujahid Omar”.

It has been suggested that the Hand in Hand for Syria nurse appears to be of Central Asian, rather than Syrian, origin.  A January 2015 International Crisis Group Policy Briefing observes that “Growing numbers of Central Asian citizens, male and female, are travelling to the Middle East to fight or otherwise support the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIL or ISIS).” [7]

Many more questions about Hand in Hand for Syria are posed in a dossier compiled by peace activist Dr Declan Hayes and in two You Tube videos: Inside the BBC’s Uprising: Hand in Hand for Propaganda and WANTED: Evidence Hand in Hand for Syria is Really in the Business of Saving Lives. 

Notes

[1] This Facebook account has since been deleted.

[2] Mr Sahloul’s bloodthirsty sentiments were “liked” on Facebook by Hand in Hand for Syria co-founder Fadi Al-Dairi.  Mr Sahloul and Mr Al-Dairi are listed as Trustees of Hand in Hand for Syria on the Charity Commission website.

[3] Dr Ahsan is a former British Army Captain who served in Bosnia and now works as a freelance filmmaker, a medic and more recently as a BBC presenter.  Dr Ahsan is the subject of this complaint currently lodged with the corporation.

[4] “The Syrian National Council (SNC), which was set up six seven [sic] months after the uprising against the Assad regime erupted in March of 2011, was the biggest and most significant Syrian opposition group in exile until November 11, 2012, when it joined the broader National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces.”  http://carnegieendowment.org/syriaincrisis/?fa=48334

[5] BBC Editorial Complaints Unit Provisional Finding, 23 April 2014 (see p10 of download).

[6] Further images of the same child and others attached to the same militia unit can be found here.

[7] It has been suggested that other individuals who feature in ‘Saving Syria’s Children’ and in other footage from Atareb Hospital on 26 August 2013 also appear to be of Asian, rather than Syrian, origin.

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4 responses to “UK charity which shares Syrian opposition “aims and objectives” benefits from Alan Kurdi tragedy

  1. Pingback: UK charity which shares Syrian opposition “aims and objectives” benefits from Alan Kurdi tragedy | OffGuardian

  2. Pingback: UK charity which shares Syrian opposition “aims and objectives” benefits from Alan Kurdi tragedy | Philosophers Stone

  3. Pingback: UK charity which shares Syrian opposition “aims and objectives” benefits from Alan Kurdi tragedy | Alternative News Network

  4. Pingback: UK Charity Which Shares Syrian Opposition “Aims and Objectives” Benefits from Alan Kurdi Tragedy | Uprootedpalestinians's Blog

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