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Posted: Apr 28 2018, 09:08 AM
Group: Featured Blogers
Member No.: 17
Joined: 17-January 12
Rep: 143 pts
Syrian war: The boy at the centre of conflicting tales about alleged Douma chemical attack
By Anne Barker
Depending on who you believe, 11-year-old Hassan Diab is the victim of a chemical gas attack ordered by Bashar al-Assad's brutal regime, or: he's an unwitting pawn in a fabrication by rebel forces who deliberately staged the attack as a "provocation".
Either way, the Syrian boy has become the face of a broader story about war propaganda: initially portrayed by the West as a victim, he's since become the face of Russia's claims that the chemical attack was a fiction.
Hassan is the boy filmed at a hospital in Douma late on April 7, with apparent symptoms from being gassed with chlorine or the nerve agent sarin.
He is seen rubbing his eyes as he stands alongside other patients, who appear distressed, unconscious or seriously ill.
Syrian opposition groups, including the White Helmets, told Western media that scores of people died in the attack — many in the basement of an apartment building.
But Russia and Syria have gone to extraordinary lengths to try to prove the chemical attack never happened, and that photos and video posted online were deliberately staged.
'Witnesses' flown to Europe
Russia and Syria on Thursday flew Hassan and 15 other Syrians to Europe, to support their claims there was no chemical attack on Douma on April 7.
These "witnesses" appeared at a press conference at the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in the Hague — the same agency that has sent a team of weapons inspectors to Douma to investigate evidence of a chemical attack.
The 11-year-old boy told assembled media that he was with his mother in the basement of a building in Douma when they were suddenly told to rush to the hospital.
"They started pouring water on me at the hospital. I don't know why," he said.
The boy's statement replicates a similar account he gave to Russian state television in Syria last week. In a report on Russia Today his father said it was water that caused his son to rub his eyes.
"I was very surprised and asked what had happened, why my son's eyes were red. I found out that it was water, but it was cold," his father said.
"He could have got sick, he was undressed."
Russia's Ambassador to the OPCW, Alexander Shulgin, has defended bringing the boy to The Hague.
"Little Hassan is an eyewitness … he's telling the truth," he said.
"After this briefing, no one would have a shadow of a doubt who distributes fake news and who is waging an information war."
Syria's Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad has told Britain's ITV network that children from Douma were treated for sand inhalation rather than poison gas.
"There are no obvious injuries," he said.
"I believe what our doctors, who were there in the hospital at that minute, were saying. They did not see any dead person."
But Britain says Russia's claims are a despicable theatrical stunt by Russia.
The US and its allies say the authenticity of information on the alleged attack is unassailable. In a statement, they said:
"Medical NGOs have found traces of chemical agents on the victims.
"Photographs and videos, numerous and mutually reinforcing, have been authenticated.
"The symptoms of more than 500 patients who presented on the same day of the attack in health care facilities undoubtedly corresponded to gas intoxication."
A separate report on the state-owned Russia 24 channel accuses the White Helmets, a civilian rescue group, of fabricating the evidence of a chemical attack, including actors to fake the footage of victims, and claims that Hassan Diab was coerced into taking part.
"It's all acting, they pour water on him and shake him," the reporter said.
The boy is filmed returning to the hospital with the Russian reporter, who finds "the props are still there".
"They used this hose to water me, and then they sat me on this couch," the boy said.
Hassan Diab's father tells Russia 24 that his son had no symptoms of poisoning and there was no chemical weapon.
"I found my family in the hospital. The militants gave dates, cookies and rice to all the participants and let everyone go home," he said.
"My child was perfectly fine."
Medical staff also tell the reporter that the attack was staged.
"No victims affected by toxic agents were admitted to our hospital on April 7," one medic said.
"Yes there were people who began to water themselves with a hose, but there were no appropriate symptoms."
Hospital staff blamed a conventional bombing for dust and smoke that caused breathing problems.
But a French government report presents a raft of evidence that "several lethal chemical attacks" took place, and that France assesses "with a high degree of confidence that they were carried out by the Syrian regime".
A US-based investigative website, The Intercept, also reveals that the Russia 24 interview with Hassan Diab and his father were almost certainly filmed at a Syrian army base in Damascus, "where Russian military advisers were present".
This is just part of a fairly lengthy article that includes video clips - some purporting to be news.
In this day and age, propaganda has become a very sophisticated tool and which news item one chooses to believe is often dependent on the political views held by the reader/viewer.
One thing is certain, atrocities will have been carried out by both the Assad government forces and the rebels. That is often the very nature of war.
When major powers take sides in such conflict they manipulate the "news" to influence their people.
Recent history has illustrated the folly of major powers becoming involved in conflicts - particularly those in the Middle East and Northern Africa where the basis of the conflict is often more religion based than political.
"A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on." - Winston Churchill
Posted: Apr 28 2018, 09:15 AM
Group: Active Member
Member No.: 53
Joined: 13-March 12
Rep: 10 pts
These days I treat a lot of “news” and “views” as propaganda.
This post has been edited by Alicia: Apr 28 2018, 09:16 AM
Posted: Apr 28 2018, 01:29 PM
Group: Active Member
Member No.: 48
Joined: 15-February 12
Rep: 17 pts
So was it water or sand?
Life is neither a race to the end, nor a slow ramble whose sole aim is longevity
Do not regret growing older. It is a privilege denied to many.