For those who don’t know, Waqar Zaka is a Pakistani reality TV star popular for ‘Living on the Edge’—call it poor man’s Fear Factor if you will.
With the help of a Turkish agent, he ventured into Syria from the Turkish town of Kilis with the goal of reaching Aleppo, along with bringing a family from Aleppo to Kilis.
Did he reach Aleppo?
If we go by his viral video, he was able to go to the rebel-held town of Azaz, where he distributed cash and clothes. Azaz is a town known for its close proximity to Turkey and also shares a border with the country. He took pictures with kids, and the families were shy but thankful for the aid. The video then cuts to the inside of a car where a Syrian family is talking to Zaka, and a Syrian doctor by the name of Hassan tells him that he was a doctor in Aleppo and used to live in Bab al-Hadid region of the city. Dr Hassan then says: “Our house was smashed and bombed by the planes.”
Zaka asks them why didn’t they stay in the refugee camps and Dr Hassan’s wife tells him it was quite cold there and hard to live with little kids.
He shows them their house—somewhere in Kilis—and hands them the money which includes the rent, as well as the security deposit. Dr Hassan thanks him, but adds that he would need a job and Zaka assures him that he would help in opening a “medicine shop” for him.
Zaka then gives his abysmal political analysis on the situation in Syria which goes something like this:
“There must be one particular area in Syria where bad things are happening, but not everywhere.”
He informs that CNN and BBC have an issue with Bashar al-Assad and don’t really give a clear picture: “They won’t mention Bashar al-Assad liberated his area from Daesh, but will keep on harping about people getting killed.”
“Now that Assad has cleared the area from Daesh, America is feeling embarrassed.”
He then complains about Palmyra—which he called “Palmeeree”— not getting a mention in the news after ISIS retook the area from the Assad regime: “There’s another area where Daesh has reappeared…Palmeeree is the name I think.”
“If in his country [Assad] is carrying out attacks to get rid of terrorism…See, no one wants to kill their own people…America just loves being everyone’s daddy.”
On a humanitarian level what he did was nothing short of spectacular and he is rightly being appreciated widely in Pakistan because of that. With that being said, he’s not a journalist, and even some of the more established journalists of the world lost their marbles when it comes to Syria. So, you can’t really blame him for some of those gaffes.
It is pertinent to mention here that venturing into Syria has always been dangerous for aid workers and humanitarians alike. A brutal war has been going in Syria since 2011 when anti-government protests turned violent. Oliver Bridgeman, an Australian teenager from Queenstown, went into Syria for aid work and his passport was cancelled by the Australian authorities. There have been a few cases even in Pakistan where aid workers have been apprehended by security agencies based on a fear they were involved in terrorist activities there. Fighters from Pakistan have gone on to Syria to fight for the government, as well as defend the government of beleaguered Syrian dictator, Bashar al-Assad. Iran has recruited fighters from Parachinar and other parts of Kurram Agency to fight in defence of the Syrian government as a part of a militia called Zeinabiyoun.