Baby and his father

The first victims seen to arrive at Atareb Hospital in Saving Syria’s Children (at around 31 minutes) are a baby, variously described as seven or eight months old, and his father. The infant is shown being attended to by Dr Saleyha Ahsan. [1]

In respect of all the alleged victims featured in ‘Saving Syria’s Children’, please note the existence and sophistication of HOSPEX “macro simulation” techniques and the personal connection which exists between Dr Saleyha Ahsan and an army officer in charge of running HOSPEX exercises.

The Baby 

Accounts of the infant’s injuries are wildly inconsistent, ranging all the way from “nasty scolds [sic] on his legs” to “80%” or “full-body” burns. [2]

In fact, the baby appears entirely unscathed. He does not appear to have suffered “severe burns”, as the Panorama narration states, let alone the “80%” burns that Dr Rola Hallam claims which, as the high percentage indicates, would cover the vast majority of the child’s body and would hence be unmistakable. (See Figs 1 & 2, click to enlarge)

Moreover Dr Ahsan’s recommendation at 31:19 in Panorama that “this baby needs to be picked up” would seem to be extremely reckless and to pose a grave risk to an infant suffering “severe burns” of up to 80%. [3]


Fig 1 With the majority of the baby’s body visible, it is clearly not suffering “80% burns”


Fig 2 – Dr Ahsan’s advice that “this baby needs to be picked up” would seem to be wholly inappropriate in the case of a baby suffering “severe burns” of up to 80%

The Father

The baby’s alleged father is seen with perfect clarity over Dr Ahsan’s left shoulder at 31:15 (Fig 3) and then again holding the baby and conversing animatedly with someone off-screen at 31:31 (Fig 4).

He is animated and vocal and seems entirely unscathed.

His appearance is in stark contrast to Ian Pannell’s BBC News description of the father who “was also burnt and sat helplessly on a stretcher clutching his son” and to Dr Rola Hallam’s description in which he “also had a burnt face”. 


Fig 3 – The baby’s father (over Dr Ahsan’s left shoulder) at 31:15 in Panorama. According to Dr Hallam he “also had a burnt face”.


Fig 4 – the baby’s father at 31:34 in Panorama, talking animatedly to someone off-screen. According to Ian Pannell’s BBC News report of 30 September 2013 this man “was also burnt and sat helplessly on a stretcher clutching his son”.

It is also noteworthy that in an interview with the Romford Recorder Dr Ahsan speaks about being unable to communicate with the baby’s “parents”, indicating that both the father and mother were present; however none of the many other accounts of the incident makes any mention of the child’s mother and she is not in evidence in the Panorama footage.


[1]  Ian Pannell’s narration at this point states “no-one’s quite sure what’s happened.” Subsequently “dozens” of other alleged victims begin to arrive. This sequence of events is portrayed in several other accounts, including others given by Dr Ahsan. However in an interview with Australian broadcaster ABC on 27 November 2013 Dr Ahsan gives an entirely contradictory account (from 02:38):

“It was quite a quiet day and I was beginning to think ‘ooh gosh I’ve really got my timing wrong ‘cause what’s the point in me being here if I’m not going to be helping out?’ and then suddenly, standing to my left I just saw this rather strange vision I ju…  I I felt as if I was having an out of body experience because I couldn’t quite work out what I was seeing, there was a boy, covered in this strange white dust, had wide staring eyes, his clothes were hanging off him, and he had this huge laceration on the side of his face, and his skin looked like it had areas of burn, and he was saying in a very calm voice ‘where shall I go okhty?’ which means sister in Arabic…”

In this version of events , the baby and his father do not feature at all. Instead Dr Ahsan states “it was quite a quiet day” prior to the arrival of the person she now claims was the first victim – a boy covered in “strange white dust”, who had a “huge laceration on the side of his face” and who spoke to her, asking her where he should go. This clear and vivid account is entirely irreconcilable with what viewers saw in ‘Saving Syria’s Children’.

[2] The baby and his father’s injuries are variously described by Dr Rola Hallam, Dr Saleyha Ahsan and Ian Pannell as follows:

  • “The infant was covered in full-body burns, and his dad had head burns.” (Dr Rola [“Roula”] Hallam, speaking “days after the attack”, NBC News, 30 August 2013 – article deleted some time after 17 January 2015, cached copy archived here)
  • “An eight-month-old baby lay on one of the trolleys, crying in pain. He had a reddened face, and some minor evidence of early blistering on his forehead. The skin had slightly peeled on his right foot, and his left leg was red and hot to touch. It looked like he had been scalded.” (Dr Saleyha Ahsan, Foreign Policy, 4 September 2013)
  • “I ran down the stairs to the sparse ‘re-sus’ room – the patient was an eight-month-old baby. His face looked scalded and the left leg was red”. (Dr Saleyha Ahsan, Independent, 29 September 2013)
  • “A seven-month old baby boy arrived, his pink face was blistered and raw. His father was also burnt and sat helplessly on a stretcher clutching his son as the staff rushed to help.” (Ian Pannell, BBC News article, 30 September 2013)
  • “A seven month old baby boy has been brought in with severe burns. No-one’s quite sure what’s happened.” (Ian Pannell, Saving Syria’s Children narration [31:01], transmitted 30 September 2013)
  • The day of the bombing was actually quite quiet. Then an eight-month-old baby came in with nasty scolds [sic] on his legs. My Arabic is limited so I wasn’t able to communicate with the parents about what happened.” (Dr Saleyha Ahsan, Romford Recorder, 11 October 2013)
  • We were working in the emergency department when a baby, a seven month old, came in with 80% burns, with his dad who also had a burnt face…” (Dr Rola Hallam, Save the Children event [22:20], 27 November 2013)

[3] The term “80% burns” used by Dr Hallam in reference to the baby’s injuries  invokes the rule of nines which is applied only to more serious second and third degree burns.

It is notable that despite the severity of a diagnosis of “80% burns” and the grim prognoses offered (see below) by Dr Hallam and Dr Ahsan for victims with burns of lesser degree (including Dr Ahsan’s statement that “the younger you are the worse chances you have of surviving”) no account I am aware of alleges that the baby was among those who died from their injuries.

  • “…to be honest, and it breaks my heart to even say this, but I.. there’ll be very few of them who will survive this, even who are alive now, they had such extensive burns and as soon as it becomes a burn over 50%, it’s, it’s, even in the best burns centres in the world, they’ve got a very high chance of , of death”. Dr Rola Hallam, Fire fell ‘like rain’ in Syria, 12 October 2013 (video, 03:13)
  • “Both Hallam and Ahsan said they would expect very few of their patients to survive for any amount of time”. Fire fell ‘like rain’ in Syria, 12 October 2013 (text)
  • “What I dealt with in Syria were up to 40 very severely burned people with up to 70 to 80 percent burns, second to third degree, and the younger you are the worse chances you have of surviving.” Dr Saleyha Ahsan, A doctor’s testimony from the war in Syria 27 November 2013,  (audio, 09:00)

About Robert Stuart

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

6 responses to “Baby and his father

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