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Syrian Refugees Sympathetically Profiled By BBC Now Convicted For Rape Of 13-Year-Old Schoolgirl

Jack Hadfield

Two Syrian refugee brothers who were sympathetically profiled by the BBC in 2016 have been convicted of the horrific rape of a 13-year-old girl in Newcastle.

Omar and Mohamed Badreddin, 26 and 23, were found guilty of multiple counts of rape at Newcastle Crown Court last week for repeated sexual abuse of their victim that took place between 2018 and 2019, along with two other men, one of whom was from Kuwait. Omar was jailed for 18 years, and Mohamed for 13.

“My childhood turned into what I can only describe as a living nightmare,” said the victim in a court statement. She said she dropped out of school and turned to drugs and self-harming in order to “cope” with what happened, saying the treatment was “horrific.”

In 2016, Omar was sympathetically portrayed by the BBC in a Newsnight piece about Syrian refugees in Newcastle. At the time, Omar had been acquitted of attacking two teenage girls in a park, and was portrayed as a victim of a “false” allegation.

“My feeling when I was in prison for a whole month was that it would have been better for me to have stayed in Syria or Jordan because it was all unfair and unjust,” told BBC Newsnight at the time.

“On the face of it, the case involved three older men preying on two underage girls. But the court heard one of the girls had told lies in the past. The defense wanted it thrown out,” said BBC reporter Katie Razall in a voice over, before going on to describe the men as “less sexually experienced” than the girls.

“Damning statements made by the men in their police interviews turned out to have been mistranslated. As the evidence emerged, the Syrian men in many ways appeared less sexually experienced than the girls they were supposed to have attacked. One of the other defendants revealed to the court that he’d never even seen two people kissing. 18-year-old Omar told me he’d never had a sexual encounter of any kind.”

Razall and Newsnight also pointed to “far-right groups” who reacted to the trial, and others who were “ready to blame cultural differences for the way the Syrians were alleged to have behaved.”

“I’m trying to be open-minded about the Newsnight program but watching through clips now and the children from the 2016 case are described as being more ‘sexually knowledgeable’ than the accused,” said Poppy Coburn, Assistant US Opinion Editor at The Telegraph, reacting to the news. “In what universe is this the appropriate language to describe vulnerable girls?”

Other users of X uncovered previous posts from Razall, who said it was “shocking” for police in the 1980s to “disbelieve” potential rape victims and “accuse [them] of being on the game,” despite the fact she highlighted the supposed “sexual experience” of potential rape victims in her very own news report.

In their article on the conviction of the Badreddin brothers, the BBC do not mention their previous reporting.

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