Fact Check

Syrian War Victims Are Being 'Recycled' and Al Quds Hospital Was Never Bombed?

The idea that victims of mass tragedies are "recycled" is a common theme among conspiracy theorists, but there are international reports and footage of the Al Quds Hospital attack.

Published Dec 13, 2016

 (YouTube screen capture)
Image Via YouTube screen capture
Victims of atrocities in Syria are being "recycled" by anti-government activists.

On 10 December 2016, Eva Bartlett — an activist and blogger who openly says she is biased in favor of the Syrian regime — was featured in a circulating YouTube video that says she is "schooling" a "mainstream media" reporter by making a series of outlandish-sounding claims, including that international media are conspiring to fabricate stories of hospital bombings and that anti-government activists are "recycling" victims to cast the Syrian military in a negative light. (She also refers to all factions fighting President Bashar al Assad's forces as terrorists.)

Bartlett has a statement on her own web site that says she supports the current Syrian regime. (It reads: "I support Syria against a 'civil' war that is funded, armed and planned by the western powers and their regional allies with a view to wiping out all resistance to imperialism in the Middle East...").

In the video, Bartlett was speaking at a pro-Syrian government event on 9 December 2016 at the United Nations, where she was billed as an "independent Canadian journalist." (She is also a contributor at RT, a news site funded by the Russian government.) When a Norwegian reporter from the newspaper Aftenposten questioned her statements that the Syrian people overwhelmingly back Assad and that the media has conspired to lie to the world about him, she said she knows Syrians back Assad, because the majority voted for him in the 2014 election.

Voting in that election only took place in government-held territories and while Assad won 88.7 percent of the vote, the country's constitutional court reportedly put turnout at 73 percent. Bartlett also claimed that the New York Times has the same end goal as outlets such as Democracy Now!, and that goal is ousting Assad.

Bartlett went on to claim that Al Quds Hospital, which was bombed in April 2016, was never actually bombed, and that victims of Assad's forces are being falsified by the group known as the White Helmets, a search-and-rescue organization in rebel territories. She said:

The White Helmets purport to be neutral yet they can be found carrying guns and standing on the dead bodies of Syrian soldiers, and their video footage actually contains children that have been recycled in different reports. You can find a girl named Aya who turns up in month, say, August, and she turns up the next month, in two different locations. So they are not credible.

The claim can be seen here, starting at the 3-minute mark:

It is unclear exactly whom Bartlett is referring to, but in October 2016 wrenching footage of a little girl named Aya made its way around the news media. Aya can be seen with blood streaming down her face, calling for her father in Arabic, as medical personnel attend to her:

According to news reports, Aya was later reunited with her family. A group described by English-language media as an opposition activist group, Talbiseh Media Centre, reported Aya's home collapsed after being struck by a rocket, but her family, although wounded, survived.

Another girl, also named Aya, was identified in a 27 June 2016 story posted by the United Nations Refugee Agency. A third little girl named Aya was featured in a 2013 story posted by UNICEF. All three are distinctly different children, which is clear by their appearances and descriptions. Despite Bartlett's claims, the existence of multiple children named "Aya" does not indicate the "recycling" of victims or prove that accounts of violence against Syrian civilians by their government are falsified. It attests only to the popularity of the given name Aya among Syrian families.

In another statement gleaned from Russian officials, Bartlett claims that Al Quds Hospital was never bombed:

Other points about Aleppo are, hospitals in Aleppo have been attacked. I'm sure you've heard in the media that hospitals have been attacked. Well this media is referring to the pockets of Aleppo that were occupied by terrorists and they have manufactured stories, and I can give you a precise account. In April of this year [2016] there was a hospital called the Al Quds Hospital which in a concerted effort, all media said was attacked and targeted and badly damaged by either the Syrians or the Russians. In fact the Russians had satellite imagery showing that this hospital was in the same shape it was in, in October 2015. No difference. Therefore it was not attacked. Months later, the Guardian, which is a prominent British newspaper actually said that the Al Quds hospital that it had alleged months prior to the attack and destroyed, was treating victims of so-called chemical weapons attacks. So even the media that is lying is inconsistent in their lies.

The medical charity, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF, or Doctors Without Borders), which has supported Al Quds since 2012, confirmed in a 29 April 2016 statement that the hospital had, in fact, been bombed.  From an MSF report on the incident:

On 27 April 2016, amidst the Syrian government-led coalition’s offensive on East Aleppo, Basel Aslan (Al Quds) hospital was attacked and severely damaged by two airstrikes. According to interviews with staff present at Al Quds hospital during the attack, at exactly 9.37pm, a building across from the hospital, identified as Ain Jalout school, was struck by an airstrike. Following the first strike, Al Quds medical staff retrieved the wounded to transfer them to the hospital for medical care. Soon after, the Al Quds staff residence, located a few buildings down from the hospital, was hit by a second strike.

The attack killed dozens and caused an international outcry, and there is footage from the aftermath of the incident. Bartlett's comment about Al Quds can be heard just after the 18:30 minute mark:

The Guardian
did print a Reuters report on 10 August 2016 about people being treated Al Quds Hospital for chemical gas poisoning. However, that does not prove the hospital was not bombed, only that the hospital started operating again after the attack. A 4 May 2016 statement by MSF says just that, noting the hospital would reopen two weeks after the bombing.

Bartlett's claim that the child victim Aya, is "recycled" is the same type of charge levied by conspiracy theorists at parents of children who were killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook elementary school massacre. It is a claim also promoted by David Icke, who is best known for believing the world is controlled by Martian lizard people.

Bartlett did not return our request for clarification sent via social media and an e-mail address provided on her web site.


Al Arabiya News. "Assad wins landslide 88.7% election victory."   4 June 2014.

Duley, Giles. "“Aya doesn’t die!” A feisty four-year-old from Syria survives in exile."   UNHCR. 27 June 2016.

Pruthi, Priyanka. "Aya – one child, one of one million Syrian refugee children."   UNICEF. 22 August 2013.

MSF: "Syria: Update on airstrike at Al Quds hospital."   29 April 2016.

Barrington, Lisa, and Nebehay, Stephanie. "Air strikes on Aleppo hospital kill doctors and children."   Reuters. 28 April 2016.

Reuters. "Suspected chlorine attack kills at least three in Aleppo, says relief group."   10 August 2016.

ABC News. "Sandy Hook massacre victims' parents harassed by 'truthers', told children never existed."   30 June 2016.

David. "Rescue Redux: Are Syria’s White Helmets ‘Recycling’ its Child Victims?"   DavidIcke.com 19 October 2016.

MSF: "Syria: Al Quds hospital death toll rises to 55.   4 May 2016.

MSF: "Review of Attack on Al Quds hospital in Aleppo City."   September 2016.

Bethania Palma is a journalist from the Los Angeles area who has been working in the news industry since 2006.

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