Briefing by Director of the Foundation for the Study of Democracy Mr.Maxim Grigoriev
Our organization “The Foundation for the Study of Democracy” analyses extremist and terrorist ideologies across the world.
We are members of the Global Counter-Terrorism Research Network established by the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate. We were also granted consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council. We are the members of the Coordination Council for Countering terrorism of Civic Chamber under the lead of former Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations Sergey Ordzhonikidze.
Our organization has carried out an independent assessment of the Organization for prohibition of chemical weapons Report of the fact-finding mission regarding the incident of alleged use of toxic chemicals as a weapon in Douma, Syrian Arab Republic.
We have interviewed:
- Fifteen witnesses at the site of the incident in Douma;
- Forty members of the White Helmets who provided a detailed description of the methods commonly used by the organization to fake scenes;
- More than twenty-five people who witnessed the White Helmets staging the chemical attacks.
We have also analyzed publications and videos related to the incident.
For a start, I would like to draw your attention to paragraph 8.38 of the OPCW Mission report. I quote: “The team was taken to the tunnel that had appeared in videos and photographs showing bodies that were reportedly the result of the alleged chemical attack, together with victims of conventional bombing … Samples for analysis were collected in the tunnel following the sampling plan, but no chemicals relevant to the allegation were found.”
As you know, the White Helmets were the ones who were actively engaged in the hospital incident and disseminated videos and information about victims in the hospital and the alleged use of chemical weapons by the Syrian army. On the screen, you can see footage from their video depicting members of the organization in the hospital. OPCW Report concluded that there were no traces of chemical weapons at this location. That constitutes a direct accusation of the White Helmets by OPCW in forging the incident and concludes that their witnesses are deceitful sources.
We went to the Hospital that was filmed by the “White Helmets” in a video where its employees allegedly assisted those who had suffered from a chemical attack. The hospital personnel and Syrian civilians completely refuted these staged rescues.
On the photo on the left you can see our interview with a witness thereto, Doctor Hassan. You can see his words on the screen: “Those who brought us these people told that they had chemical poisoning. But the medical examination revealed no signs of chemical poisoning. We provided them with elementary medical care and released them home.”
Many witnesses of the events confirmed to us this Hospital scene was staged and a fake.
During our fact-checking mission in Syria, we found dozens of participants of the attacks staged by the White Helmets. These people told us in detail, how they had to participate in the stagings for few dollars to buy some food for their families. On the screen, you can see photos of only some of them.
For example, Rihab Ali Mansour narrates how she was taken to a flat and given white prayer clothes. She was then told to lie down and smear her mouth with toothpaste, playing dead in a chemical attack. It is symptomatic that we have seen a similar scene in the videos about the alleged incident in Douma.
Yazan at-Tharazi narrates how to he was taken to a medical center by the White Helmets members. They told him to close his eyes and filmed their movie.
On the screen, you can see the words of Wafika Hubbiya who tells us how she was brought by car to the city of Zamalka, and then she laid down on the staircase performing death in a chemical attack.
It is symptomatic that we have seen a similar scene in the videos about the alleged incident in Douma.
At the bottom of the screen you can see the words of witness Omar al Mustafa ibn Muhammed from Aleppo who saw with his own eyes, how they simulated a chemical attack: they brought children, laid them down, pushed civilians away and filmed children as if they died in the chemical attack.
On the screen, you can see the words of the White Helmets member in Douma Ahmed Bouweidani. He narrates how children performed sufferings of a chemical attack. They were then given candies. This unequivocally proves that the White Helmets had staged chemical attacks even before the alleged incident in Douma.
At the bottom of the screen, you can see the words of the Aleppo citizen, Abdurazak Nassan Ibn Nuaman, who said that he had personally seen the staged scenes of the White Helmets even before the alleged incident in Douma.
Here is further proof of the White Helmets' staged scenes related to the chemical attack. Amran Makiah, member of the White Helmets in Douma: "We were told that there were victims of the chemical attack and we should go there. We went there and saw nothing special, just a fire, but other White Helmets were taking pictures, filming everything insisting that those were the consequences of a chemical attack." This unequivocally proves that the White Helmets had staged chemical attacks even before the alleged incident in Douma.
Aleppo citizen Mohammed Al-Mustafa Ibn Hassun says: "The White Helmets always disseminated information according to which the authorities had used chemical weapons. It was not true: in fact, we as the inhabitants of that district, had never identified a single child that had become victim of a chemical attack."
This resonates to our survey of fifteen witnesses in Douma who also were not capable to name a single local child who died in the chemical weapon accident.
I emphasize once again that any responsible journalist would not find it difficult to go to the Syrian regions which were occupied by terrorists and in which the White Helmets worked and find hundreds of witnesses and direct participants of the staged videos.
The picture on your right features a photo from “The Time” article “A Photographer Bears Witness to a Suspected Chlorine Attack in Syria”. This article, with a reference to White Helmets members, accuses Syrian army of an attack with the use of chlorine. We found White Helmets member in Douma Mahmud Bouweidani from this photo and interviewed him exactly on the spot where “The Time” shot was made. He fully exposed their propaganda. You can see his words in the bottom of the screen: “We brought one family to the Douma Hospital, representing things as if the Syrian army had used chlorine, but there was actually no gas. I was told to sit down on a bed and hold an oxygen mask on to get the required shot”. This also unequivocally proves that the White Helmets had staged chemical attacks even before the alleged incident in Douma.
You have seen only few of many witness reports indicating that fake chemical attacks were a permanent element of the White Helmets’ work before the Douma incident.
As mentioned previously, the OPCW Report established that the data provided by the White Helmets with regard to the incident at the hospital in Douma was a fake.
As you all understand, if the source of information is deceitful from the very beginning (as was the case with the White Helmets with regard to the incident in Douma), the information from this source can further be used only by someone who is extremely naïve or clearly interested in distorting the investigation results.
It is obvious that an independent report would require characterizing such witnesses as deceitful sources and excluding the information received from them. Strangely enough, the OPCW does the opposite and bases its report predominantly on this deceitful source: the Report refers to the White Helmets under the name of the “Syrian Civil Defence” and the information provided by them twenty times.
Such approach leaves no doubt both about the quality of the report and the OPCW’s willingness to discover the truth.
In the middle of the screen, you can see a table of people interviewed by the OPCW Mission. Unfortunately, the OPCW fails to meet the criteria of transparency.
On 13 February 2019, the BBC Syria producer Riam Dalati tweeted: "In fact, one of the 3 or 4 people filming the scene was Dr Abu Bakr Hanan, a "brute & shifty" doctor affiliated with Jaysh Al-Islam." It seems reasonable to ask how many witnesses interviewed by the OPCW were affiliated with Jaysh Al-Islam and other illegal armed groups.
Failure to present a list of witnesses tells us that the majority of the witnesses interviewed by the OPCW could be affiliated with illegal armed formations interested in providing false information or even people who were not present at the site of the incident.
At the same time, the OPCW fails to include in the report the testimony of the witnesses whose presence at the site of the incident is confirmed by videos. For instance, OPCW interviewed only six people out of seventeen witnesses present in The Hague at the press conference with eleven-year-old Hassan Diab.
The use of shady anonymous witnesses along with the OPCW’s failure to include the testimony of confirmed witnesses in the report raises questions about the conclusions of the Report and the OPCW integrity.
On the screen, you can see paragraph 8.29 of the OPCW Report. It states: “The team analyzed the available material and consulted independent experts in mechanical engineering, ballistics and metallurgy who utilised specialised computer modelling techniques to provide a qualified competent assessment of the trajectory and damage to the cylinders found at Location 2.” End of quote.
This is practically the only information about the experts involved that is provided in the OPCW Report. The OPCW withholds not only the names and qualifications of the experts, but also the objectives and questions raised with them.
It is evident that incorrect questions and incorrect conditions can lead to erroneous results regardless of the qualifications of experts. It is only possible to assess the validity of the expertise if the questions raised with the experts are specified.
Unfortunately, the OPCW does not disclose the objectives and questions raised with the experts. This gives rise to reasonable doubts as to whether the experts were instructed to carry out a full analysis of all versions of the events.
On the screen, you can see paragraph 8.67 of the OPCW Report. It states that the White Helmets took the bodies to the place which they referred to as "Point One” to "be prepared for burial".
It is evident that the autopsy would unequivocally confirm their claims about chlorine poisoning, as well as enable to identify the bodies and determine the death toll. There could be no other explanation for the apparent concealment by the White Helmets of the bodies of the alleged victims of the chemical attack, other than the fact that they staged the attack using the bodies of the people who had died in other places or even had been killed specifically for fake videos.
The aim of the OPCW Mission, as specified in Mandate 050/18, was to gather facts regarding the incident of alleged use of toxic chemicals as a weapon, in Douma and to report to the Director-General.
On the screen, you can see an extract from the operational instructions for the OPCW Mission. The operational instructions for the OPCW Mission explicitly mention medical examinations and autopsies. The fact that OPCW did not do it raises doubts with regard to both the quality of its work and its willingness to discover the truth.
The OPCW Report mentions various numbers of casualties of the alleged chemical attack. On the screen, you can see paragraphs 8.73 and 8.74 of the OPCW Report. The numbers range from 70 to 500 people. This paragraph also cites the sources that deny the presence of chemically-related casualties. It is evident that these data contradict each other and require an analysis to determine the veracity of these allegations. Then, the sources with false statements should be excluded from further consideration. It is also obvious that the data cited in paragraph 8.74 contradict the testimony referred to in paragraph 8.73.
The OPCW’s failure to analyze the sources to determine their reliability along with the subsequent use of deceitful sources also raises doubts with regard to both the quality of the work of the OPCW and its willingness to discover the truth.
On the screen, you can see the layout depicting position of the bodies from the OPCW Report. It is evident that a competent study of the version with airdropped chlorine cylinders would require a list of casualties. In case of Location 2 that involved a cylinder on the roof and 16 bodies in the videos, it would have been easy to make a preliminary list of casualties by questioning local residents and showing them photographs. On the other hand, the fact that the locals could not identify the victims on the photographs would support the version about a staged attack, for which the bodies had been specifically brought from other places. The OPCW Report took almost a year to prepare. Despite this long period of time, the OPCW failed to question local residents. This indicates lack of competence of the organization or a deliberate attempt to conceal the facts confirming the version about a staged attack.
On a separate point, during our interview with fifteen witnesses in Douma, none of them could identify the locals that had allegedly fallen victims to the incident involving chemical weapons. Given that the residents of the Syrian cities tend to maintain close contacts, this raises strong doubts as to the veracity of the version about the poisoning of local residents and indirectly substantiates the version, according to which the bodies of the victims had been brought separately.
On the screen, you can see diagrams from the OPCW Report. The fact that the mathematical model is not described raises questions. It remains unclear whether the air drag was taken into account, and if yes, what air density and at what height was used, as well as the drag coefficient of the cylinder. These questions are of critical importance. Based on that the results may differ up to thirty units. The speed before impact of sixty m/s indicated in the diagram from the OPCW Report also raises doubts as to whether the fact that the Syrian air forces fly at a height of more than two thousand meters for fear of man-portable air-defense system was taken into account.
The speed of the cylinder near ground should have been more than sixty m/s indicated in the OPCW Report in both models, with and without air drag. Paragraph 8.31 of the OPCW Report states: “The analyses indicate that the damage observed on the cylinder found on the roof terrace, the aperture, the balcony, the surrounding rooms, and the rooms underneath and the structure above, is consistent with the creation of the aperture observed in the terrace by the cylinder found in that location.”
As you can see, misperceptions lead to false conclusions.
On the screen, you can see that the cylinder allegedly dropped by the Syrian air forces did not breach the roof of the building. The undisclosed model with the maximum speed near ground of 60 m/s used by the anonymous OPCW experts did not account for all the necessary initial conditions (drop height of two thousand meters, drag coefficient, cylinder weight etc.). Given these factors, the speed of the cylinders should have been much higher leading to the cylinder breaching the roof at Location 2. The fact that this was not the case supports the version, according to which the chlorine cylinder had been brought to stage the chemical attack.
On the screen, you can see paragraph eight 8.96 of the OPCW Report. It makes a conclusion with regard to the situation at Location 2, with the cylinder on the roof. Here is a direct quote: "The victims do not appear to have been in the midst of attempting self-extrication or respiratory protection when they collapsed, indicating a very rapid or instant onset. This type of rapid collapse is indicative of an agent capable of quickly killing or immobilising". End of quote. However, the described situation with instant exposure and death of people is not indicative of chlorine, but a nerve agent. Broken windows in the building near the staircase would have brought the chlorine concentration down even more and reduced the risk of instant death for the victims.
Studies of the incidents involving the release of chlorine show that in most cases people manage to evacuate. Besides, the number of injured significantly exceeds the number of casualties.
The position of the bodies at the second and third floors and the staircase in the videos, as well as the fact that there were no confirmed victims of chlorine in the hospitals are in direct contradiction to the OPCW’s version about the use of chlorine.
Here are the key facts of our analysis.
1) Notwithstanding the fact that the OPCW Report effectively exposed the falsity of the statements of the White Helmets about the events at Location 1 and despite multiple testimonies of the organization’s practice to fake chemical attacks, the OPCW Report is based almost entirely on their claims (with more than twenty references);
2) The OPCW uses a lot of questionable anonymous witnesses who are likely affiliated with armed groups and the White Helmets and probably were not even present at the site of the incident and fails to include in the report the testimonies provided by real witnesses;
3) The OPCW withholds the names of the experts it referred to, as well as the questions raised with them and the mathematical model they have used. All the factors considered and the situation in the house with the cylinder on the roof refute the claims about the cylinder dropped by the Syrian air forces and support the version, according to which the chlorine cylinders had been brought from outside;
4) The OPCW failed to do autopsies of the bodies of the alleged victims of the chemical attack, and the White Helmets arranged for their disposal;
5) The OPCW failed to identify and even estimate the death toll, which could have been easily done by questioning local residents;
6) The position of the bodies in the house with the cylinder on the roof contradicts the OPCW’s conclusion about the chlorine cylinder as a cause of death at that location.
The above-mentioned facts refute the conclusions of the OPCW, according to which the chlorine cylinders could have been airdropped by the Syrian air forces and the victims were exposed to chlorine they contained.
The explanation that both the cylinders and the bodies had been brought in advance seems more plausible.
These facts also confirm that the OPCW has deliberately failed to conduct an impartial assessment of the incident in Douma and raise doubts as to whether the organization is capable of making such assessments in the future.