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Syrian film-maker accused of faking his own attempted murder

November 3, 2017, The Guardian

Doubts have emerged about the story of a Syrian filmmaker who claimed to have survived a murder attempt in Istanbul last month, after videos were published in which he appears to be planning the attempt on his own life to generate publicity for his anti-Assad film.

Muhammad Bayazid said he was stabbed while going to meet a potential financial backer for his film, a dramatised account of a political prisoner who spent years in Syria’s infamous dungeons.

The Guardian reported on the murder attempt last month, based on the account of a friend who accompanied Bayazid when he was stabbed, and an interview with his US-based wife.

But the videos, first published this week by the news website al-Araby al-Jadeed, cast doubt on Bayazid’s version, appearing to show him having Skype conversations with a colleague to plan the attack.

In one video, Bayazid and his colleague appear to be discussing purchasing a gun in Istanbul, while in another, he appears to be discussing how they will generate buzz around the film through the alleged attack.

“When this happens, you and I will be the two most famous people in the Middle East for 48 hours,” Bayazid says in one video. “You will get calls from all the media outlets … You will tell them what happened as we agreed, what you saw, and my account will match yours when I wake up or get out of the surgery. Those who haven’t heard of the project will hear about it, and then I will publish the trailer that you saw.”

In a Facebook post, Bayazid rejected the accusation that he had faked his own murder attempt and lied about the attack. He said the conversations occurred after he was stabbed and they were discussing a short film about the attempt. He later deactivated his Facebook profile.

In an email exchange with the Guardian, his wife, Samah, said the couple had been subjected to an online bullying campaign, and maintained that the attack was genuine. She echoed her husband’s version of events.

“My husband has not only faced a physical assassination attempt, but he has been facing a continuous character assassination from the very next day til now.”

She said the individual who leaked the video had proposed the idea of a film about the murder attempt and later tried to blackmail the couple.

The revelations provoked widespread condemnation and anger among Syrian opposition activists on social media. They excoriated Bayazid for what they said was the damage done to the anti-Assad cause, and called on media outlets to retract their stories on the incident.

“The terrible consequences of the actions of these liars and frauds is that it opens the doors towards total doubt,” said Yassin Sweihat, a journalist and editor of al-Joumhouriya, an online Syrian magazine.

“These stories damage our credibility and result in an oral defeat for all those who believe in the revolution,” said another activist.

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