Did Saving Syria’s Children “victims” die two months before BBC report?

A casualty report published by the Damascus Center for Human Rights Studies (DCHRS) appears to show that at least two of the purported victims featured in the 2013 BBC Panorama documentary Saving Syria’s Children died two months before Ian Pannell and Darren Conway’s initial report.

Teenagers Siham Kanbari (or Qambari/ Qanbari) and Lutfi Arsi are depicted in Saving Syria’s Children supposedly being treated for their injuries at Atareb Hospital, Aleppo following an alleged incendiary attack on their school playground in nearby Urm al-Kubra on 26th August 2013.


However a DCHRS casualty report of 25 November 2013 contains a list of “6 victims who have fallen in previous days”. All six are from Urm al-Kubra and are documented as having died on 28 June 2013. The list includes the names “Seham Qanbri” and “Lutfi Assi”.

All six names on the DCHRS list have parallels on a Violations Documentation Center in Syria (VDCS) list of 41 casualties of the purported napalm incident reported by the BBC. The date of death of all those on the VDCS list is 26 August 2013, the day of the alleged incendiary attack.

DCHRS – date of death 28 June 2013VDCS – date of death 26 August 2013
Seham QanbriSiham Qandaree – child female
Siham Qonbori – adult female
Lutfi AssiLoutfee Asee – child male
Mohammad MastouMohammad Mesto – adult male
Walaa AqraaWalaa al-Ali – child female
Wesam HusseinWisam Hosain – adult male
Mustafa Ash-ShaikhMostafa al-Shaikh – adult male

The names “Walaa Aqraa” and “Walaa al-Ali” are less closely analogous than the other instances. I include the comparison because non-BBC footage from Atareb Hospital on 26 August 2013 purports to show a deceased victim named “Wala’a”.

DCHRS casualty reports subsequent to 26 August 2013 list three other alleged victims of the purported incendiary attack who appear to correlate with individuals named in the BBC’s reports and/or on the VDCS list:

DCHRS casualty report dateName on DCHRS reportName/s on VDCS listName in BBC report/s
27 August 2013Mohammad Abdunnasir Fakhouri, a 15-year-old, from AleppoMohammad Abdulnaser Hakhouri
30 August 2013Child Mohammad Fida Khannas, a 15-year-old, from AleppoMohammed Kenas/Kanas
23 October 2013Siham Qambri, from AleppoSiham Qandaree – child female
Siham Qonbori – adult female
Siham Kanbari

In total, the VDCS list contains eight names which parallel those in the BBC’s reports, in contemporary DCHR casualty reports or in other accounts of the events of 26 August 2013 of which I am aware. In several cases the VDCS’s blanket claim of a date of death of 26 August 2013 runs counter to these other narratives.

Entry on VDCS listDate of death (DCHRS)Date of death (VDCS)Date of death (BBC)Date of death (other sources)Notes
Muhammad Abdullatif age 1526/8/13An adult Mohammed Abdullatif is presented as a witness by the BBC (02:55).

Blog page.
Walaa al-Ali age 1728/6/13 (Walaa Aqraa)26/8/13A non-BBC video from Atareb Hospital on 26/8/13 purports to show a deceased victim “Wala’a”.
Anas al-Sayed Ali age 1526/8/13“a few days later in hospital in Turkey”. BBC Complaints, 2 December 2013.
(Anas Sayyed Ali)
“two weeks later”. Dr Saleyha Ahsan, Human Rights Watch report, November 2013 (p15). (Anas Said Ali)Blog page.
Loutfee Asee age 1528/6/13
(Lutfi Assi)
26/8/13“He died on his way to hospital in Turkey”. [i.e. 26/8/13 or 27/8/13]. BBC Complaints, 2 December 2013. (Luffi Arsi)Evidence which may contradict the BBC’s claim that Asee died en route to hospital is discussed here.

Blog page.
Muhammad Assi age 1826/8/13BBC Audience Services provided an image of Assi (Mohammed Asi) “two weeks after the attack in hospital in Turkey”.

A Human Rights Watch report of 9 November 2020 contains an interview with, and video of, Assi.

Blog page.
Ahmad Darwish age 1526/8/13The BBC filmed Ahmed “in a Turkish hospital, a few weeks after the incident”.

Blog page.
Siham Qandaree age 1728/6/13 Seham Qanbri

OR

23/10/13 Siham Qambri
26/8/1319/10/13 – update to end credits of Saving Syria’s Children (Siham Kanbari)“Seven weeks later” (approx 14/10/13), The Daily Beast (Siham Qambari)

20/10/13 – Dr Saleyha Ahsan, BMA blog and Human Rights Watch report November 2013 (p15)
A Human Rights Watch report of 9 November 2020 corrects the VDCS’s “Siham Qandaree” for “Siham Kanbari” (p20, footnote 48). I therefore assume that the VDCS’s “Siham Qonbori” (row below) is a separate individual.

The BBC filmed Siham Kanbari “in a Turkish hospital, a few weeks after the incident”.

Blog page.
Siham Qonbori (adult female)28/6/13 Seham Qanbri

OR

23/10/13 Siham Qambri
26/8/13Likely this is not the Siham claimed to be presented in the BBC’s reports (see note directly above). However it is not certain which, if either, of the DCHRS listed victims this name corresponds to.

One other alleged victim is named both by the BBC and the DCHRS. While he does not appear in the VDCS list, his name is appended to a truncated version of the VDCS list which is included in a November 2013 Human Rights Watch report (p20).

Name on VDCS listDate of death (DCHRS)Date of death (VDCS)Date of death (BBC)Date of death (other sources)Notes
30/8/13 (Mohammad Fida Khannas)“on the way to hospital in Turkey”. [i.e. 26/8/13 or 27/8/13]. BBC Panorama Saving Syria’s Children narration. (Mohammed Kanas)26/8/13 (presumed)
Human Rights Watch report, November 2013 (p20). “Mohamad Feda Khenass” is appended to a truncated version of the VDCS list

Blog page.

The list of casualties in the November 2013 Human Rights Watch report omits four names from its VDCS source: Siham Qonbori, Mohammad Mesto, Wisam Hosain and Mostafa al-Shaikh. These are four of the six names whose counterparts are listed by the DCHRS as having died as a result of shelling on 28 June 2013. The VDCS counterparts of the two remaining 28 June 2013 DCHRS casualties – Loutfee (rendered as Loutfi) Asee and Walaa al-Ali – are included in the truncated HRW list.

The Human Rights Watch report is fastidious in clarifying minor errors and omissions in the the original VDCS list, such as the precise spelling of names and ages of some of the victims (p20, footnotes 47 & 48), however it omits mention of the fact that the VDCS allocates a date of death of 26 August 2013 to all the victims on its original list. Indeed, the text of the Human Rights Watch report contradicts the original VDCS list by explicitly claiming (p20) that two victims died after 26 August 2013 – Anas Said Ali, whom the report claims died “two weeks later from complications caused by the severe burns” and Siham Kanbari, whom it is stated “died in a hospital in Turkey on October 20”.

Conflicting accounts of date of death of Siham Kanbari/Qambari/Qanbari, excluding the newly analysed DCHRS data.

As suggested in this previous post, it is not readily apparent that the girl featured in Saving Syria’s Children and the person who appears in the programme’s updated end credits are one and the same.

A summary of further issues surrounding Saving Syria’s Children can be found here.

Update March 2021: after seven and a half years online, the VDCS list of casualties of the alleged napalm incident is no longer available. However several copies exist on the Wayback Machine.

About Robert Stuart

Researching the 2013 BBC Panorama documentary Saving Syria's Children and associated BBC News reports.

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