The Truth Behind The Oft-Quoted Syrian Observatory For Human Rights

The director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Rami Abdulrahman, speaks on the phone in his home in Coventry, central England December 6, 2011. With only a few hours sleep, a phone glued to his ear and another two ringing, the fast-talking director of arguably Syria's most high-profile human rights group is a very busy man. "Are there clashes? How did he die? Ah, he was shot," said Rami Abdulrahman into a phone, the talk of gunfire and death incongruous with his two bedroom terraced home in the unassuming city of Coventry in central England, from where he runs the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Photograph taken on December 6, 2011. REUTERS/Mohammed Abbas (BRITAIN - Tags: POLITICS SOCIETY)



The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights is quoted as though it were the most authoritative source of information to be found in Syria. Such “luminaries” as the Huffington Post, VICE, Reuters, CNN , Fox and nearly all of  the mainstream media have been caught citing this website verbatim, without so much as questioning the reliability of this singular source.

Only RT, being a Russian outlet and thus being the butt of a lot of the site’s accusations, seemed at least concerned enough about the authenticity of this source to conduct an investigation into discovering how this authority on all things Syrian had came to existence, and its process for deriving its very-“authentic” information.

Abdel Rahman is the “director” of the SOHR, though it is quite uncertain if he actually has anyone to “direct” as nobody else is known to work for/with him. He works from his two-bedroom Coventry home in the UK; this is why you keep seeing the Mainstream media call him a “London-based monitoring group“.  It’s quite funny, really, calling this one man a “London-based monitoring group” in the same vein as The Red Cross.

Check out its wiki page, it says the same thing. It also reveals that there are really two SOHR websites, both of which seem to hate each other, and both claim that the other had stolen the idea/entire website from the other:

The website claimed that Rami Abdulrahman was in fact called Osama Ali Suleiman and he merely used the name Rami Abdulrahman, a pen-name that the website claimed to have been initially used by all “SOHR members”.[6] claimed that Abdulrahman was able to wrest control of the SOHR website in August 2011 by changing all the passwords and that he proceeded to make himself the chairman of the SOHR, upon which an organisation claiming to be the ‘real’ SOHR created the rival website[6] This new website then proceeded to attack Abdulrahman, claiming he only had a “very modest level of education”, thus not able to “communicate professionally in English”, and condemning his “lack of professionalism” and even alleging that he was a member of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party.[6][7][8]
Abdulrahman, meanwhile, says the new site is run by Mousab Azzawi, who used to translate for the SOHR[2] but was fired after falsely claiming to be an official spokesman for the organisation and calling for foreign intervention in Syria.[7] The SOHR which was run by Mousab Azzawi had stated that they consider reporting on the deaths of government soldiers to be “not in their interest”.[2][7] Since the early conflict, it appears that Azzawi’s is inactive and has adopted the name Syrian Network for Human Rights with the website, whereas Abdulrahman’s group continues to use the sites (Arabic version) and (English version).

RT first sent a journalist-prankster to interview the “director” of the SOHR. The journo went hunting for the singular face of this “authentic” Syrian source. Unfortunately, the man was out of the country and had a few choice words for the journalist:

“I am not a media organization. I work from my home, my private home.”

“they are trying to kill me.”

He then threatened the journo with calling the police, all because of an interview, and not even a serious one at that. Interesting that this man should be so fearful in the UK of all places, leaving one doubtful that this frightened creature would ever make the journey to Syria to gather his own intel. Short answer: he doesn’t.

RT was dogged however, and sent a proper journo after the elusive man, who was in Kazakhstan attending a conference with the Syrian Opposition.

Apparently the “risks” this man (and the Syrian Opposition) was taking paid off in spades, because this conference was held at a luxurious hotel in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan.  More specifically, it was held at the Rixos President Astana, where a room for a single adult would set you back between 112 to 168 USD a night, and was rated as one of the four best luxury hotels in Kazakhstan by Five Star Alliance.

Fancy. No suffering for THIS Syrian migrant.

When RT tracked him down, he finally agreed to answer a few questions:

RT asked Abdulrahman whether he personally knows “hundreds of people,” as he himself puts it, working in Syria for SOHR, and whether he can really trust all of them.

“I know all of the activists working for the SOHR,” he replied.

When RT wondered when the last time Abdulrahman actually went to Syria was, he said it was 15 years ago.

“But I know some of the Observatory activists through common friends. This organization only takes new members following a six-month trial period and the candidate has to be familiar to someone from the organization or to a reliable outside contact,” he said.

So basically.. this one-man-show relies on “intel” allegedly gathered by 200 people whom he knows personally, yet impersonally because he has never met them and knows them only through other unspecified “friends” (whom he probably knows through other “friends”), and is considered authentic because the man has not been to Syria for 15 years- some 11 YEARS before the conflict began.

The site does not reference any sources,  probably because its sources are completely unreliable, assuming they even exist to begin with. Even its own stories contradict- according to RT, its Arabic site had attributed an airstrike to Assad, despite its English site having already attributed it to Russia…

Sources: RT Huffington Post, VICE, Reuters, CNN , Fox, Sputnik News, Nile Net Online, Astana Times, Five Star Alliance, SOHR

This Article (The Truth Behind The Oft-Quoted Syrian “Observatory” Of Human Rights) is free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to the author(CoNN) and


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  1. Along with private groups like SITE and The Investigative Project, these ‘organizations’ can (and probably do) manufacture news at will. Just like the privately held Federal Reserve prints money at will.

      • You are SOHR yourself “linda”. You are trying to divert people from discovering the lies you put out. You have been completely busted for the propagandistic manufacturer you are and the agendas you and your “sources” drive.
        It is completely clear now that your alleged “al Assads gas attack on his civilian people” has been revealed for the poisonous lie that it is.
        Deplorable methods you use for your purposes.

        You could report on who funds you and how much money you get for getting your hands bloody?

  2. I had seen the RT news on some and couldn’t help but notice every news bit about the latest bombings of hospitals and school cited SOHR as a source for the story. NPR was the only news organizations that didn’t. Of course, it was the Russian’s fault – for once it wasn’t Obama’s fault.

  3. Wikipedia reports Abdulrahman as having been jailed in Syria 3 times and fleeing the country as he believed he would be jailed again, with the inference being that he was an opposition activist, I’m betting that he was jailed as no more than a petty criminal. The western press is utterly corrupt to be quoting such a source.

    • It’s not just the Western press. Remember US support for convicted felon Chalabi in Iraq? And Karzai? Americans (among others) seem to be eternal suckers for smooth-talking hustlers making big claims. The bigger the claim, the better the hustle.
      The ironic folk wisdom describes it perfectly: “An expert is anyone who is over 50 miles from home.”

  4. This is a late reaction to this post. I have worked with the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights since 2012. It’s true that in the UK there is only one person who is the founder of the organisation. however, there are also project coordinators in satellite offices in the Netherlands, Lebanon and Turkey. The Observatory works with more than 200 human rights defenders and activists and quite frankly, I would find it dodgier if one of the staff would claim that they knew everyone.

    Syria is in conflict – and yes…we should be careful to assume that any organisation that purports to have accurate information should be taken with a grain of salt especially when it’s difficult to verify the information and data. However, I do caution the Western world in the usual ways or norms you’re used to in verifying information. In many parts of the world, especially in poorer nations in Asia, Latin America and Africa, exact information and details are hard to verify. However, you do have a sense of general content that would give at least a good measure of what’s going on in an area.

    In Syria, the reports that come in are based on the information shared by Syrians who are collaborators or activists who know the staff of the Observatory. Don’t we all start like this? Forming an organisation because you love your country regardless of the last time you went there…and then start working with a network of people who knows one person…then another person…then a link with another. Many revolutions in the South start like this….you don’t necessarily know the people you work with or you organise with but at least you have the same sentiment and love for the country so the goal and the vision are the same

    It doesn’t matter who you are. It doesn’t really matter how you do it for as long as you do it with honesty and love for the country and this is what these Syrians are doing. The important thing is that you do it because you want news about your country to go out and that you do it with local activists. Did you all know that the in the past year, there were at least 10 human rights defenders and activists who collaborate with the Observatory who were killed? Did you also know that yes, the founder Abdel Rahman has been threatened many times including the staff based in the Netherlands who just came back from Syria and is now planning another dangerous mission back? OK it is true – Abdel Rahman may not be the most charismatic person nor does he have the skill to communicate like a good speaker in order to garner trust but I do think he has done much more than what you all accuse him of.

    At least he is doing something for the country. At least he did form an organisation and continues to link with many people in order to monitor and report on the human rights violations happening in the country. He may be eccentric but at least he was able to gather a handful of his friends to start doing something for the country. The humble beginnings of many civil action types of organisations do start like this. The same way the Syrian Campaign started – you don’t know who they are. Or the White Helmets who just band together to run and look for people in the rubble…you don’t know who they are. The same can be said about the new research and policy organisation named Syrian Centre for Policy Research which just released a report about Syria. By the way, their statistics are close to the Observatory’s information. But really, who are they as well? How can they be an authority? But this is in fact what we all need to be cautious about – the distrust towards organisations or individuals who, in their good heart, want to share information inspite of the fact that no one knows them. Not only would this be dubious…it’s difficult to enter the country to verify information!

    But then if there are quite significant commonalities between the reports shared by these organisations and civil action groups….why is it that the people in the West are easy to jump to negative criticism? Of course, I respect the need to verify and hold people and organisations accountable…this is very important. However, isn’t there a much more constructive way to do this versus mudsling people? People who try their best to help out?

    oh wait finally….Did you know that the other coordinators based in the Netherlands, Lebanon and Turkey risked their lives to enter Syria to assist in operations in Syria? And that there are some 200 Syrians (who chose to stay in Syria) who are helping in making sure information goes out of the country?

    • It would be more impressive if you idiots actually told the governments where the “hospital’s full of babies” are before the bombing started. Otherwise, you only appear to be whining about people that decided to stay and live in an active warzone with 10+ years of warning under a regime that kills 100s more of them daily than any Russian or US bomb.

    • Good job Linda, some of these people commenting are so god damn red-pilled they wouldn’t believe a broken nose if someone punched them in the face. This article, like my comment, reads to me as though it is written with a haughty tone and oozes with derision for the dummies in the media but in reality it wouldn’t be passed for publication by any self-respecting editor. They clearly didn’t bother researching what they were writing about properly. They cite without referring to the background of the dispute between Abdulrahman and Azzawi. Do they not realise about the dispute between the two groups claiming to be SOHR? Do they not know that there is internal politics at play between those two versions of the same organisation? To simplify, essentially Abdulrahman is more closely aligned with the National Coordination Body for Democratic Change in Syria (NCB) and Azzawi with the Syrian National Council (SNC). Both claim the other organization to be run by imposters, Azzawi’s evidence is to my eyes much weaker and therefore so is his claim (especially as his claim only surfaced after a vocal split between the NCB and SNC over NATO intervention (NCB against, SNC pro).

      There also seems to be a lack of knowledge even from my ignorant standpoint among many commentors as to how such organizations are the only sources we really have as the traditional human rights organization and their methodologies become unworkable in a conflict such as the Syrian one. In short it’s just too fucking dangerous to get reliable info and you should therefore be mistrustful of people trying to push an agenda based on such information. It doesn’t mean anyone trying to get information is by definition corrupt.

      Maybe some of the virtiol poured on to your organization and on you is because of the chemical weapons controversy. I actually probably agree with some of them as I am very unconvinced by the “Assad done it” narrative. However, I am also unconvinced by the “Assad dindu nuffin” narrative. They are both narratives being pushed by people with agendas. I am unconvinced either way and find it unlikely we will ever know for sure who carried out the attack. Therefore I also agree that intervention based on such uncertainty was surely folly.

      I do agree with the one of the central points made in the article. This is that the media quotes sources such as SOHR too readily and without due diligence. However, this is not the fault of the SOHR. Trying to denounce this guy because he stayed in a hotel for a hundred bucks!? Maybe he is a corrupt shill but you gotta gimme some evidence not just inference. Seriously, you could be sued for that type of shit. I’m not someone who says never quote RT but you can’t uncrtically quote them while criticising someone else for pushing an agenda re the Syria conflict just because thier agenda happens to align with your own political opinions. God this has got me kinda mad sorry if I come across as arrogant and cuntish but I am so suck my dick.

  5. in short what “Linda” (hah-hah) says is that there’s not accountability, no credited sources, nor any way to check the “facts” they peddle as the pure truth and we are asked to swallow it because they are humble and beginning (beginning? That osama/rami chap began his business since at least 5 years. Neither is any accountability about the supporters who pay him and the operation and the trips to Kazahstan and five stars hotels. “Linda” asks us to believe the Netherlands team, first, exists, and then comes and goes to Syria in “dangerous” “missions” What “dangerous missions” are these? What their results? Whi pays for them? And anyway “she” asks us to believe all what she says just on “her” word, not a piece of verifiable evidence of nothing, as always. And then, how come that practically the totality of the “information” and “reports” are about the supposed crimes and violations to human rights of Assad’s government and the Ruskies and few or nothing at all about the continual and atrocious of the takfiri terrorists, aja “moderate rebels”, aka nusras and associates and branches? And then all the “information” comes from the zones under control of these same takfiri killers? And then, how come that this so humble, inexperienced, limited outfit is the main source of (des)information about Syria for the MSM?… Surely the humble outfit must have such super PR and merchandizing experts working for them to have it so well connected with the whole of MSM… In the end “Linda” comes here to vouch for rami/osama, in a tone and content of a DR-TV sales pusher (“but wait… we still have more!”) cum funny soap opera, but, who vouches for “Linda”?… Surely osama/rami.


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