Syrian President Bashar al-Assad claimed in a rare TV interview that the image of 5-year-old Omran Daqneesh, the face of Aleppo’s suffering, was a fake — despite the fact that medical sources confirmed treating him.
The little boy was pulled from the rubble of his home by the White Helmets, a volunteer rescue group, after an airstrike on Aug. 17. The doctor who treated Omran said the child was dazed and was not crying despite his bleeding head.
“In the beginning, he didn’t speak at all. But after his treatment, he started crying and yelling, ‘father, mother.’ His parents were very, very affected and scared for their son and crying. But we comforted them and told them that the wound was superficial,” said the surgeon, Mohammad Abu Rajab. “But he wasn’t speaking so it seemed like his condition was very serious. It seemed like he was unconscious and like the wound had affected his brain. But it turned out that he was fine.”
Omran’s 10-year-old brother, however, tragically died from his injuries. The hospital that treated Omran became a target of repeated airstrikes and was completely demolished, the Syrian American Medical Foundation said.
The image of the boy in question was in fact taken from a short clip posted by Aleppo Media Center, which showed him being rescued and placed inside an ambulance.
In spite of the fact that there were numerous witnesses, Assad still denied the boy’s home was bombed in an interview with ABC news.
“Is there anything you would like to say to Omran and his family?” the reporter asked Assad.
The president was not perturbed by the question and said other photos surfaced on the internet showing paramedics rescuing Omran and his family and they used those photos to manipulate the public.
“None of these incidents were true,” he said. “We have real pictures of children being harmed, but this one specifically is a forged one.”
This isn’t the only time Assad has stated claims of sieges and targeting of hospitals are false. He has denied his forces are besieging rebel-held areas claiming “people would be dead by now” and that Syrians have “everything they need.”
In response to questions about the suffering of the people of Aleppo last week, he said: "We cannot say 'the people of Aleppo' because the majority live under the control of the government.
"Some, allegedly claiming this (being besieged), I would tell them how could you still be alive?
"Why don't you have epidemics if you do not have doctors? How could you accuse Syria of attacking hospitals? So you have hospitals and you have doctors and you have everything! How could you have them?"
The president’s comment came in wake of the intense bombardment that left 45 people dead in rebel-held areas.
Assad’s regime apparently views the population as a threat that needs to be exterminated. In Syria, government forces have resorted to bombing, kidnapping, arrests and even starvation, like in the case of Madaya and Daraya. In July, 65 people died from starvation in Madaya.
According to Syrian Network for Human Rights, an estimated 65,000 people have disappeared at the hands of the government. In addition to the abductions, nearly 400,000 have been killed and 2 million have been injured. An estimated 72,000 Syrian children also lost their lives.
Assad has reiterated his plan to take back the whole country under his rule again — even if it means annihilating his own people in the attempt.