Fact Checking

Fact Check: Pro-Assad Activist Makes False Claims About Syria Attack

March 31, 2021
IranWire
3 min read
Activist-in-exile Kevork Almassian posted a misleading claim about an attack on a food store in Idlib, Syria
Activist-in-exile Kevork Almassian posted a misleading claim about an attack on a food store in Idlib, Syria
The attack on the warehouse damaged food and necessary goods due to be distributed as part of humanitarian initiatives
The attack on the warehouse damaged food and necessary goods due to be distributed as part of humanitarian initiatives
"The Russian Air Force bombed the headquarters of a Turkish-backed terrorist group,” Kevork Almassian told his 28.3K followers on Twitter on March 21
"The Russian Air Force bombed the headquarters of a Turkish-backed terrorist group,” Kevork Almassian told his 28.3K followers on Twitter on March 21
Manipulating the truth: a case where certain facts may be used out of context to imply a different unprovable or inaccurate point
Manipulating the truth: a case where certain facts may be used out of context to imply a different unprovable or inaccurate point

A prominent pro-regime Syrian activist has reported that Russian warplanes attacked Turkish-backed terrorists in Syria, a claim IranWire investigative journalists have since disproven.

The activist's claims suggest a bungling of a terrorist attack, but in reality, the Russian forces badly damaged a warehouse storing food due to be distributed as part of a humanitarian initiative. 

"Today, the Russian Air Force bombed the headquarters of a Turkish-backed terrorist group,” activist-in-exile Kevork Almassian told his 28.3K followers on Twitter on March 21. His comments appeared alongside a video clip from the Syrian opposition channel Orient News showing smoke rising from the outskirts of a building. "The fake media are lying and telling people that the bombing was near a camp for displaced persons,” he wrote.

But, after visiting the targeted site near Idlib and analyzing location data Almassian refers to in his tweet, IranWire investigative reporters concluded that Almassian’s statements are misleading: there is no evidence of Turkish terrorists being in the vicinity, and there is ample evidence of a warehouse storing food being damaged, with some accounts reporting that the building remained in flames after the attack.

Opposition media reported that the shelling targeted the Bab Al-Hawa border crossing between Syria and Turkey. Orient News, founded by a Dubai-based Syrian journalist, posted the original clip Almassian shared. He also reposted its claims that "the Russian occupation" had carried out air strikes "close to refugee camps,”  dismissing it as “fake news.”

IranWire's research shows that the shelled building is located on the Bab Al-Hawa crossing, and confirmed that Almassian’s claim that it was not a refugee camp was true. However, a warehouse containing large quantities of food items belonging to the humanitarian organization Shafaq was targeted. According to the Shafaq website, the charity was "established during the first months of the revolution in Syria, and provides humanitarian services to Syrians.”

On January 8, the German government stripped Almassian, who works for Germany's far-right, anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, of his status as an asylum seeker, arguing that his life was not under threat in his home country of Syria.

Aerial Photography Provides Evidence

IranWire reporter Ibrahim Al-Khatib visited the shelled building and discovered that the Russian airstrike had hit several trucks parked outside the warehouse, destroying them. The journalist also obtained aerial photographs of the site revealing that quantities of food and goods inside the building were also badly damaged.

Al-Khatib’s photographic evidence is backed up by another photograph taken by Syrian photographer Rami Al-Sayed. It also shows the damage caused to the trucks, which can be seen in close proximity to the warehouse.

Further research by IranWire revealed another video clip from a surveillance camera located on the road nearby. It recorded the exact moment the shell hit the warehouse. The journalist filming the video posted on Orient News’ website can also be seen in the footage.

An IranWire journalist took photographs and videos from both inside and outside the building, which again reveal clear evidence of the destruction caused to goods.

Based on this substantial evidence, IranWire has arrived at the conclusion that Kevork Almassian's post is a manipulation of the truth and misleading at best. Facts were used out of context to imply a different, unprovable, or inaccurate point. In this case, it was likely that the pro-Assad activist deliberately attempted to misinform the public and shape opinion.

Learn more about IranWire’s data validation methodology here.

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Fact Check: Pro-Assad Activist Makes False Claims About Syria Attack