The charity Hand in Hand for Syria has claimed that photographs of an employee of its former “flagship medical facility” posing with weapons including an anti-aircraft gun and a shoulder-launched surface-to-air missile were taken when the man was no longer working for the organisation.
Slide show: Hand in Hand for Syria hospital employee Iessa Obied posing with weapons in photographs posted to his Facebook account between November 2012 and October 2013.
A spokeswoman for Hand in Hand for Syria  made the claim in an article published by leading UK voluntary sector journal Third Sector in the wake of a Charity Commission finding, in response to a formal complaint, that the images “do not raise sufficient regulatory concern” to warrant action.
The worker in question, Iessa Obied, had posted the pictures on his Facebook account.
Iessa Obied is the younger brother of the hospital’s Medical Director, Abdulrahman Obied, who was filmed alongside Hand in Hand for Syria executiveDr Rola Hallam in the 2013 BBC Panorama special Saving Syria’s Children. All but one of the images featuring Iessa Obied posing with weapons are now no longer publicly visible on his Facebook pages.
Abdulrahman Obied, who has described himself as Atareb Hospital’s Medical Director, was filmed alongside Hand in Hand for Syria executive Dr Rola Hallam in the 2013 Panorama programme ‘Saving Syria’s Children’. Abdulrahman is the older brother of Iessa Obied who posted numerous images of himself posing with an array of weapons on Facebook.
The dates on which the relevant photos of Iessa Obied were posted on Facebook – which can be ascertained from the screengrabs available at the second link below each image in the complaint – would not appear to back up Hand in Hand’s claim that he was no longer working for them at the time they were taken.
The images in which Obied is wearing a Hand in Hand for Syria tunic were posted commencing just nine days later, spanning from 2 September 2013 to 23 November 2013. Therefore, if anything, it might be argued that Obied began working for the charity after the weapons images were taken rather than, as the spokeswoman implies, having worked for them before.
Note however that this image, in which Obied is astride an anti-aircraft gun and giving what is commonly understood as the ISIS salute, was posted on 18 October 2013, i.e. during the period in which he was also posting images of himself wearing Hand in Hand for Syria clothing.
Indeed, in this picture – the only one featuring Obied and weaponry currently still viewable on his Facebook page – it’s possible that the blue garment he is wearing under his jacket is in fact a Hand in Hand for Syria tunic. Certainly in this image posted only a day later (and which is now deleted or hidden) Obied is clearly sporting the Hand in Hand logo.
Uploaded on 18th October 2013, over a month after he had begun posting images of himself wearing a Hand in Hand for Syria tunic, Iessa Obeid poses astride an anti-aircraft gun, possibly wearing a blue Hand in Hand tunic:
In the second image, posted one day after the first on 19th October 2013, Obeid can be clearly seen wearing a Hand in Hand tunic.
According to Hand in Hand for Syria co-founder and chairman Faddy Sahloul, Atareb was set up by the organisation “as a small community hospital early in 2013.”
It is unclear from the Third Sector article’s reference to the “now-closed Atareb Hospital” whether Atareb is no longer in operation (although it continues to maintain its Facebook page) or merely that it is no longer funded by Hand in Hand for Syria. It is, however, plain that Iessa Obied is claiming to have worked there throughout Hand in Hand for Syria’s tenure.
Iessa Obied states that he has worked at Atareb Hospital, Aleppo from “2011 to present”. Hand in Hand for Syria says they set up the hospital “early in 2013”.
Also noteworthy in regard to Iessa Obied’s status within Hand in Hand for Syria is his participation in a “battle first aid training course in Antakia, Turkey” for Atareb hospital staff on Monday 26 August 2013 . A post on Atareb’s Facebook page from that day shows Abdulrahman Obied and other Atareb staff posing for a photo which may well have been taken by Iessa.
Abdulrahman Obied posted images both of himself and of his brother Iessa taking in the sights of Antakia on the same day and Iessa posted an image of himself participating in the training a few days later (possibly the training took place over several days).
So the timeline of Iessa Obied’s various streams of images, including those in which he is photographed with weapons and those in which he is wearing the uniform of an alleged humanitarian organization, appears to be something like the following: from 26 November 2012 up to 24 August 2013 Obied is pictured posing with weapons, some of which are capable of downing aircraft.
Two days later, on 26 August 2013, he took part in a battle first aid training course for the staff of Hand in Hand for Syria’s “flagship medical facility“, Atareb Hospital.
Seven days after that, on 2 September 2013, he is photographed wearing a Hand in Hand for Syria tunic. In two subsequent images he is pictured giving what is commonly understood as an ISIS gesture, firstly in a photo posted on 4 October 2013, while wearing a Hand in Hand tunic, and then again in an image posted on 18 October 2013, in which he is astride an anti-aircraft gun.
Although the most recent image submitted to the Charity Commission in which he sports the Hand in Hand logo was posted on 23 November 2013, in his current Facebook information Obied claims to have been employed by Atareb Hospital from 2011 up to the present day.
 The same day as the alleged incendiary bomb attack which featured in the September 2013 BBC Panorama programme Saving Syria’s Children (see from 30 minutes 38 seconds). As noted here, the absence of several regular Atareb staff on the day of these dramatic alleged events potentially raises a question mark over the identities of the medics and other staff members filmed at the hospital by the BBC. The peculiar demeanour of one of the medics whilst being interviewed the following day does nothing to allay grave suspicions.
[Follow Robert Stuart’s remarkable investigation into BBC Panorama fake footage of alleged Syrian chemical attacks at his blog bbcpanoramasavingsyriaschildren.]