The Charity Commission has determined that shocking images of an employee of UK charity Hand in Hand for Syria’s former “flagship medical facility” posing with weapons including an anti-aircraft gun and a shoulder-launched surface-to-air missile “do not raise sufficient regulatory concern, or represent a significant or on-going risk in relation to the Charity that would support regulatory action or formal engagement with the Charity.” (The Commission’s response in full is reproduced below).
The employee, Iessa Obied, is the brother of Abdulrahman Obied, who in 2015 described himself as Medical Director of Atareb hospital, Aleppo. Abdulrahman Obied was filmed alongside Hand in Hand for Syria’s executive team member Dr Rola Hallam in the 2013 BBC Panorama special Saving Syria’s Children.
Iessa Obied poses with an array of weapons and munitions in images posted on his Facebook account (http://bit.ly/1stTMeF). In other images he is pictured inside Atareb hospital wearing a Hand in Hand for Syria tunic. All of the photos featuring weapons have now been removed from his Facebook account.
The images, which date from 2012 to 2014, were submitted in a formal complaint to the Charity Commission. The Commission also considered a subsequent submission linking Iessa Obied to Amer Alfaj, a former employee of nearby Bab al-Hawa hospital, run by another UK charity Syria Relief. In 2013 Alfaj was photographed participating in the launching of a “hell cannon” mortar. Alfaj is also a former Reuters freelance photographer whose images have been published in the Daily Mail and the Telegraph.
Following the second submission to the Charity Commission all of the images containing weapons and munitions were removed from Iessa Obied and Amer Alfaj’s Facebook accounts.
Abdulrahman Obied (left), who in 2015 described himself as Atareb hospital’s Medical Director, in a family photo which includes his brother Iessa Obied (right) in an image from Iessa Obied’s Facebook account (http://on.fb.me/1Z5NBb7).
Abdulrahman Obied was filmed alongside Hand in Hand for Syria executive team member Dr Rola Hallam (right) in the 2013 Panorama special Saving Syria’s Children.
An earlier complaint about Hand in Hand for Syria had raised a number of matters, including the political nature of the charity’s original logo, the posting on Facebook of a bloodthirsty slogan by Hand in Hand’s co-founder and images of a Hand in Hand for Syria nurse, who had previously also been filmed by the BBC in ‘Saving Syria’s Children’, apparently treating a child combatant.
The Charity Commission found that the logo and the Facebook post were “historical issues” and that the images of the nurse did not constitute “sufficient verifiable evidence” to substantiate concerns that Hand in Hand for Syria “is celebrating or supporting violence”.
Update: I have been advised that in two of the images submitted to the Charity Commission Atareb hospital worker Iessa Obied is making a gesture which has been associated by some with ISIS, in one instance whilst wearing a Hand in Hand for Syria tunic. See here and here for further information on the origin and meaning of the gesture.
PO Box 211
T: witheld upon request
Our ref: C.422596.R6Y5
Dear Mr Stuart
Hand in Hand for Syria (1145862)
Further to our previous correspondence regarding the registered Charity ‘Hand in Hand for Syria’ (‘the Charity’), I can confirm that the Commission has now completed our assessment of the information provided in your emails dated 23 March and 17 May.
The Commission has considered the additional information that you have provided as part of your wider concerns about the Charity. As previously, the Commission has again sought information from the Charity in relation to the specific issues raised. The Commission considers that it is fair and appropriate to provide trustees of a charity an opportunity to offer explanation or the right of reply to any complaints made against them. The response from the trustees’ has therefore been considered alongside the information provided within the complaint.
Having reviewed all of the information provided, the Commission is satisfied that the issues raised within your emails do not raise sufficient regulatory concern, or represent a significant or on-going risk in relation to the Charity that would support regulatory action or formal engagement with the Charity. At this time, the Commission does not consider that it would be reasonable or proportionate to further pursue the specific issues raised within this complaint. I can confirm therefore that the Commission does not intend to progress this complaint further. In reaching our decision, the Commission has assessed all of the information available to us and have considered this alongside the Commission’s Risk Framework.
The Commission has already engaged with the trustees to provide some general advice and guidance in relation to some of the wider issues that the complaint has raised.
I appreciate that this may not be the outcome that you were hoping for. If you do have any ongoing issues or concerns, you may wish to address these directly with the Charity as is recommended in our published guidance regarding complaints against charities – CC47 Complaints about Charities.
I would like to thank you again for taking the time to contact the Commission.
Mrs Morag Edwards
email address withheld upon request