White Helmet Staged Rescue – on video

It is claimed that a young girl named Aya was trapped in rubble after a building was bombed during a Syrian Army attack on Tishreen, Damascus on or around the 20 February 2017. But is that claim true or is this another example of events being staged by the “White Helmets”?

Date of Incident: 20 February 2017

Location: Damascus

Date of Report: 27 August 2019


Knowing the sensitivity surrounding this issue I was expecting challenges to my claims and to the evidence I presented. I was, however, shocked to have received this type of a response from an account with close links to the White Helmets. This group, with 170k “followers”, undoubtedly attempted to take the lead in smearing me. It backfired, and after they made this dreadful mistake, they fell silent.

To be clear, the video is from 2017 and the report is about that video in 2017. You will note it says at the top of this report it’s date.


This report came about through a Twitter exchange when the allegation of ‘doll rescues’ came up. It was alleged that White Helmets had staged some child rescues using dolls.

During this exchange “Qoppa” shared a video of one such rescue which, upon quick inspection, I believed to have used a doll. Patrick Hilsman rubbished this idea and got upset, understandably so, that there was even talk the White Helmets were using dolls to stage rescues. I suggested to Patrick that we team up for a short investigation and try to get to the bottom of it. He declined.

I feel it’s important to work with people of opposing viewpoints as it helps you see things you may not have seen previously and it also helps ensure impartiality. I believe we can all, at times, fall prey to human prejudices that we may not even be aware we have.

This report takes a look at the evidence and tries to conclude if the video was staged.


I begin this investigation from the position the official narrative is correct and that what we see is a child rescue. Given my initial belief the video was staged I was aware that my findings may be prejudiced by this so I decided to provide each step of my investigation and explain each as I go.


It is claimed that a young girl named Aya was trapped in rubble after a building was bombed during a Syrian Army attack on Tishreen, Damascus on or around the 20 February 2017.

The child’s mother leaves the scene, and her buried baby, to go off and seek rescue workers. Going by the video she had to go downstairs and out into the street. Upon finding the rescue workers, who were there with a camera at the ready, she leads them back to the site where she claims her baby was buried.

The rescue team set about removing the rubble by hand until they located the baby. During this time the mother was nowhere to be seen or heard. One would imagine hysterical cries of worry from a concerned mother at this time.

After a short while, the baby is found and whisked off.

The Media

The BBC:

Syria crisis: Footage shows girl ‘Aya’ rescue

Footage released by Syria Civil Defence – also known as the White Helmets – shows a girl being pulled alive from rubble, apparently in Damascus’ Tishreen neighbourhood on Sunday.
Activists have reported air strikes in two other neighbourhoods, Qabun and Barzeh, over the weekend.


The dramatic rescue of a young girl trapped in the rubble of a bombed-out Syrian house has been caught on video and posted online.

The frantic work of a team of white-helmeted Syrian civil defense teams shows the heart-wrenching extrication of the crying child, a five-year-old named Aya, from a ruined house in the Tishreen area of Damascus. The dramatic rescue of a young girl trapped in the rubble of a bombed-out Syrian house has been caught on video and posted online.

The White Helmets:

The Video Evidence Analysed

The search for the child

I am going to supply quite a few videos of varying speeds to help us all get a good look at what’s going on.

Here is the video at the center of this investigation and played at a normal speed.

Starting at the beginning I have cut a 25-second clip showing the mother in the street finding the rescue workers. These clip times will become relevant later.

In this clip, I’d draw your attention to two issues. Firstly, does the mother come across like her daughter is buried somewhere? I showed this video to a few mothers seeking their professional opinion and each was mesmerised at the lack of excitement in the mother’s demeanor.

Secondly, I would draw your attention to the camera views. Up to 00:09 secs the camera is behind the leading rescue worker, then there’s a clip in the video when the cameraman is relocated to the top of the stairs to record the mother coming up the stairs. One of two things happened here; either there was another cameraman on the stairs or the cameraman who initially followed, paused the recording, ran upstairs and started recording again. There are obvious problems with both scenarios.

If the former was true that doesn’t fit with the woman having to go and find rescue workers and show them the building the child was buried at. If the latter was true then precious seconds were lost whilst the cameraman ran upstairs to get a better shot. There’s something else about this clip though, when the cameraman relocated, he did so with the rescue worker who leads the woman to the building. Both went to the top of the stairs as the mother was filmed coming up. Watch the clip closely at 00:12 secs and note the direction the rescue worker approaches from.

When a child’s life is at risk we must ask is it more important to get a good camera shot or get up those stairs and start digging?

Next, I will point out a guy of interest who will feature quite a bit going forward. Cameraman number 2 across the street. He’s first spotted at 00:31 (Note: the recording positional times I give are not from the clips but the original video.)

At 00:33 the video clips to a later shot as, presumably, the rescue workers clear some of the rubble away. After the clip, we see a fresh shot of cameraman number 2 only this time he isn’t holding his camera up.

Before the video clips, the men are digging at a spot away from where the baby is eventually uncovered. It is unclear how long it was before they began recording again but it would have taken time to clear this rubble. Here is an image of before the clipping. Note the pile of rubble.

Here is an image after the clipping:

It looks to have been pretty well cleared but, as said, it’s a guess to try and ascertain how long the video was paused allowing for this clearing. All the while there’s a baby buried!

At this, we are up to 00:34 in the video with two separate breaks in the recording. I would posit a guess that to clear that rubble would have taken two men, say, 1 minute if they went fast? Purely guess of course.

When the video comes back online at 00:34 we see the men digging at a different part of the room, further in from the edge. Of course, this is entirely plausible if you’re searching for a child and don’t know where she is.

At 00:43 we hear the excitement in the rescuer’s voices that they may have found her.

Here is a clip following on from where the previous one left off at 00:25 as the woman showed the men where her child was. The clip ends as we hear the men’s excitement at 00:44.

The Finding of the Child

Now that the child has been found we can begin to analyse the video very closely. So we are up to 00:44.

At 00:45 we hear the first cries of a baby, low but audible. The camera lifts away from the dig to glance over at cameraman number 2 whom we can see is recording. I found that a bit unusual as you’d imagine the focus would be on the rescue? That said, it could have just been the excitement at the moment.

We hear more cries from the baby up to 00:49 which gets louder at 00:55 and louder again at 00:58 as they clear the rubble from the baby’s body. At 1 minute the cameraman signals to cameraman number 2 to make sure he’s filming:

There may be a problem here. Up and until 1:01 the baby’s mouth and the head were covered in debris. Given that her crying started 12 seconds earlier, and every exhaled crying noise would be followed by an inhalation of air, we could presume that dust would have gotten into her mouth, along with debris, and caused her to cough and thus enter the early stages of choking. That doesn’t happen and at no time in this video does the baby cough at all.

So let me bring you up to speed with the evidence so far in this section.

We will start at 00:44 (when they located the baby) to 1:01 when her head and face are freed from the rubble.

Normal speed

Here is an image from 00:55, – 11 seconds after crying commenced. Still no head or face.

First sign of a face at 1:01:

No coughing, gasping for breath or facial expressions.

Next is a video from 00:44 (when the baby was located) up to 1:09 after her face was uncovered. This video has reduced speed to 25% of normal.

So now we are up to seeing the babies face in full.

Uncovering Aya

Next, I am going to present a section of the video at normal speed and then slowed to 10% of that speed. The reason for this is because slowing it down presents valuable information that would be otherwise missed. Note the lack of facial expression as rubble hits Aya’s face. Rubble lands near her mouth and she doesn’t flinch. No eye movements, no leg movement, arm just hangs. There’s no jaw resistance, as you’d expect if someone forced their fingers into the mouth of a child.

Normal Speed
Reduced Speed

When watching a recording at normal speed so much detailed information can easily be missed. Goto 02:34 in that video and watch as large stones slide down and hit Aya in the mouth yet she doesn’t flinch. In the slowed-down version see how the rescuer puts his fingers in her mouth to make sure it’s clear from debris, (or to try and open it?). There is no reaction from Aya. Look at the debris hitting her eyes, mouth, and face and still no reaction. I accept she’s buried and exhausted so expressions would be reduced due to lack of energy and oxygen. However, is it plausible to accept no expressions as dirt impacts her face and fingers are placed in her mouth?

Around half-way through the slowed-down video, we see as the rescuer removes his hand that is covering her face her mouth appears opened. Before the rescuer placed his hand near her face her mouth was only partially adjar. Did he open it? Or did she?

Next is an image as they try to free her motionless leg. Note the child’s face still half-buried in the rubble with mouth opened and clearly breathing in the dust from debris around her face. Still no coughing though. Would a rescuer not first clear her face so she could see and breathe? What’s so important about the legs that the face can remain partially buried?

Following directly on from where the previous clip finished off is a 10-second video of Aya crying. Does her face, her eyes or mouth suggest she’s crying? What about her inward breathing? Any inhalation signs you can point to? Should we not be expecting the slightest cough at this stage? Remember this girl had been submerged in debris for probably 2-3 minutes. She then had fingers stuck in her mouth several times and suffered stones falling on her face.

Here’s an image from during that crying period at 01:58:

Her face is still half-buried in the rubble. Surely she should be beginning to have some choking effects? Do any experts care to comment on this?

Here are two stills from 02:12 and 02:14, respectively, of a weird looking ear as the baby is removed from the rubble. Maybe that is the shape of her ear naturally? Maybe it’s just filled with dirt? Maybe it’s not real?

Aya’s Escape

Before analysing this segment, this is what is left of the video at normal speed.


I am going to take a closer look at a few aspects that have caught my eye. As always, if anyone feels I have missed something then please point it out to me on Twitter or below in the comments section.

Here are two short clips that I joined together and reduced their speed to 25% of normal. Here I’d ask that you focus on the hands and toes and note their complete lack of movement.

As they get ready to lift Aya from the dirt at 01:54 we see the same lifeless expression on her face that we have seen since her face was revealed from under the rubble. Her eyes remained closed and motionless. Rubble is still falling into her mouth (see next video) and she is no doubt breathing in large amounts of dust. Yet she still hasn’t coughed.

Aya at 2:08 – face still half buried.

But then something odd happens. Her mouth opens slightly in the absence of any other bodily expression. Her face remains expressionless. Have we any idea why her mouth suddenly opened? What does the video tell us?

Here it is at normal speed:

She’s still crying while dirt falls into her mouth.

And then reduced to 10% of normal speed:

You will see debris falling towards her mouth and over her nose. But I’m not sure the fallings debris caused her mouth to open. I noticed that her mouth opens upon her torso being jerked downwards. I then spotted this weird hand gesture, that I slowed down to 50% and then 5%, respectively. I’m not sure what’s happening here but the rescuer moves his hands in a twisting motion and her mouth opens again. Can anyone else see that?

50% reduced speed
Reduced to 5% of normal speed

This brings us to the last video showing Aya being brought out of the building.

Normal Speed
Speed reduced to 50%

Can we gather anything from the closing video?

Yellow box: Note the eyes still closed, no facial expression and jaw dropped

Bottom blue box: Unnatural looking right hand

Right blue box: unnatural looking left hand, arm dropped being supported by rescuer’s hand

Left blue box: unnatural looking left hand (better image)

These images by themselves aren’t deal maker but when coupled with videos showing a motionless body with no movement of fingers or toes, at any time, then this imagery goes on to suggest something else.

The Mother

I thought it important to bring your attention to the limited role the mother played in this video. She brings the rescue workers to the scene then we don’t see or hear her again. Not even when the child is rescued and there are cries of “God is Great” from the first responders. If you’re a mother reading this, what is your view of the mother in this video and do you feel she acted as a mother would under the circumstances? I’m a man and therefore don’t feel qualified to answer this.


Carrying out this investigation was either a very brave thing to do or a very stupid thing. I’m hoping it’s the former.

To challenge the White Helmets is to commit a cardinal sin to some:

But when this video was brought to my attention, I couldn’t ignore what, to me, appeared to be staging. Why I believe the event to have been staged has been laid out above and I have again tried to be as detailed as possible. Whilst it is plausible I have overlooked some details, I can assure you it was not due to a conspiracy or withholding evidence.

Last night when I was debating this video with Patrick Hilsman (@PatrickHilsman) on Twitter I made the claim I believed it was a doll. I drew this conclusion because I was sure that whatever it was wasn’t alive and I thought it a leap too far to suggest the White Helmets had used a dead baby for a staging.

I had been aware of life-like dolls used in simulations elsewhere and after watching the video once over, and being convinced what I was witnessing was lifeless, that is how I drew my conclusion.

On Twitter, @otiknuks, shared a link to an Instagram post of a “Baby Simbody” made by a UK company called, “SIMBODIES“.


This will give you an idea of how real these things can look and sound.

So, do I stand by my assertion that it’s a doll? I do, because I don’t believe the evidence points to whatever it is as having any life to it and I don’t want to believe the White Helmets used a dead child for a staging exercise. Therefore, I have to stand by that claim and be prepared to defend it, which I believe the evidence affords me the ability to do.

Given there is no apparent movement from the child during the entire segment of video she appears in then it must be assumed this is either a corpse or a doll.

There is no movement from the abdomen that would denote breathing. There is no coughing even though her face was half covered in dust and debris. There was no reaction from her when fingers were inserted into her mouth or when rocks hit her on the face. At no time did she display signs of life; no toes twitching; no fingers moving; no tears in her eyes from the crying.

There can be no other conclusion for this report to reach, given the evidence available, that this rescue was staged by the White Helmets using either a life-like doll or child’s corpse and that once again the corporate media failed to perform due diligence to claims made from Syria.

I write this report in the full knowledge I am entering territory where angels fear to tread and I know I’m going to be attacked by those who hold the White Helmets in high regard. I would ask those people to challenge the evidence and if I have gotten something wrong to show me so that I can update the record.


It was Qoppa that brought my attention to a crying baby whilst having its head buried in debris. So thanks to him for that.

Special thanks to Patrick Hilsman for helping source the news reports and for challenging my views on the matter.

And thanks to everyone else for their contributions. You were all a great help and help me remain focused on the evidence.

4 thoughts on “White Helmet Staged Rescue – on video

  1. Did you save the video posted on Instagram? I asked because it has been removed, apparently.

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