In September 2015, a young boy was found washed up on a beach in Turkey. Photos of Aylan Kurdi’s lifeless body were quickly splashed across mass media, much the same way that Omran Daqneesh’s photo inside an ambulance would also be disseminated.
Accusations of responsibility were hurled at the Syrian government, and leaders from Western nations upped their rhetoric about the need for intervention. Meanwhile, the corporate media and Western leaders continued their silence on the murders, decapitations, kidnappings, and actual starvation of children and adults alike in Syria by the armed mercenaries and zealots the West calls “moderates”.
In February 2017, Tima Kurdi, Aylan’s aunt got in touch with US Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, and then spoke publicly, saying she supports Gabbards “message to stop arming terrorists, to stop supporting regime change. If the West keeps funding the rebels, we will see more people flee, more bloodshed, and more suffering. My people have suffered for at least six years. This is not about supporting Bashar. This is about ending the war in Syria.”
Boy in the ambulance story: Then and now
The official story of Omran Daqneesh bothered me from the moment that Western media, in-chorus on August 18, 2016, splashed the same award-winning photo across their pages, televisions and websites, while citing Russian and Syrian guilt in an alleged strike on the Daqneesh family home the night prior.
The story bothered me, but not for the same reason it bothered so many others around the world. Yes, the sight of an injured child or an injured adult jolts any functioning human being’s sense of empathy and compassion. But the story itself seemed staged, and the event—true or not—utterly exploited to further the Western agenda of toppling the government in Syria.
When the photo was first shown, many skeptics assumed it was staged with makeup and the effects which the White Helmets have used in other videos, like this admittedly staged one. I myself doubted the veracity of the video and photo. The reasons for doubt were many: The White Helmets and their co-promulgators of propaganda, the Aleppo Media Centre (AMC), are both heavily-funded by the West, and have alliances with al-Qaeda, but somehow that is not supposed to detract from their credibility. The photographer of the photo disseminated around the world reportedly has close ties with known terrorists. But somehow that was not supposed to be a relevant point. The across-the-board demonizing (without any proof, as per the norm) of two of the main forces fighting terrorism in Syria—the Syrian government and army themselves, and the Russians—followed as predictably as with every prior or subsequent alleged atrocity.
We were told by Western media and Twitter that this boy’s story had “shocked the world” and that Omran had “become a symbol”. Pro-‘rebel’ narratives went so far as to call him a symbol of “the revolution”, and indeed the “boy in the ambulance” photo could be found in memes with the Free Syrian Army flag, often accompanying political messages to overthrow the Syrian president.
On June 6th, 2017, I had the opportunity to meet Omran in person, and speak to his father, Mohammad Daqneesh, about the exploitation of his son. Daqneesh emphasized repeatedly that he and his son had only been “lightly injured”. Sadly, one of his other sons, Ali, 11, died some days after the August 17th event from injuries sustained from falling rubble. He had been just outside the small apartment building when the explosion—which Daqneesh could not identify—occurred.
What emerged from the meeting with Daqneesh was that the story the corporate media world had told since August 2016 was not true. At the time, they accused Russian or Syrian warplanes of striking the apartment building in which Omran’s family lived. Both governments had denied airstrikes in the area in question, al-Qaterji, eastern Aleppo. To the contrary, as the Russian Defense Ministry reported, there were two humanitarian corridors adjacent to Qaterji and that officers from Russia’s coordination center “register daily incidents where streets and houses near the humanitarian corridors are shelled by terrorists from self-made multiple rocket launchers and artillery weapon.”
Mr. Daqneesh himself told me on that evening he had heard no warplanes, and when hounded by terrorist-supporting media to say that it had been an airstrike, he challenged them to show him the remainders of the alleged airstrike munition. He said they had refused.
After the now-famous photo of Omran in the ambulance was taken, Daqneesh said he refused to allow them to take any additional pictures of his son. “I forbade them from taking any other pictures. I forbade them because then I was with him—when they took the first photo I still was inside our home.” Of the M-10 hospital where his family had been taken during the White Helmets rescue scene stint, Daqneesh said, “I took them and we left. I didn’t even get my light wound treated, I went to a nurse outside the hospital, because I didn’t trust them.”
Daqneesh was later pressured to corroborate the terrorist (and coincidentally Western) narrative of a Russian or Syrian airstrike on the building. “I was under pressure to make a statement and talk but I refused, because I won’t testify to something I didn’t see with my own eyes.”
The family is back living in the initial home they had fled from years prior when terrorists had entered the area. Now that Aleppo is fully liberated, many more families have gone back to homes they had fled due to the presence of al-Qaeda and other factions. Many others will have to start the rebuilding process if these homes were destroyed.
Two days after the August 17, 2106 event, US Senator John McCain joined the media chorus, adding his own dramatic flair: “What is so disturbing about that image is that it depicts an ordinary atrocity. In the past few years, 4,500 children have been killed just in the city of Aleppo, which has been ruthlessly besieged and bombed by Russian and Syrian regime forces. …Images of the carnage in Syria must do more than inspire shock and outrage. They must compel us to action because if they do not, the fates of millions more little Omrans and little Aylans will be sealed…”
That was from the same man who illegally entered Syria via Turkey in 2013 and was reported to have been “taking pictures with terrorist leaders and some of the most bloodthirsty commanders of the invasion.”
The same man who has publicly bragged about knowing terrorists in Syria, including saying: “Has Rand Paul ever been to Syria? Has he ever met with ISIS? Has he ever met with any of these people? … I know these people. I’m in contact with them all the time and he is not.”
Of the key offenders of gross propaganda around the Omran story is CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, who has been accused in the past of distortions on Syria.
In a June 8th briefing, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said: “As it turned out, Omran is alive and well. Indeed, he was injured but his entire case was completely distorted by pseudo rights advocates and “journalists,” including Christiane Amanpour. She simply manipulated public opinion….Since Christiane Amanpour started the story in the public domain, came to Moscow, made colour prints of that image and showed it to Sergey Lavrov, maybe she will have enough courage, professional ethics as a journalist and simply human conscience to finish it? Maybe she will go to Syria, to Aleppo, find the boy’s family and do a really honest interview. Not a fake one, something that CNN is famous for, but a really honest interview.”
I agree. Go Amanpour, go to Aleppo and meet Omran and his family. I did.
By Eva Bartlett