Saleyha Ahsan

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(journalist, doctor, filmmaker, soldier, spook?)
Saleyha Ahsan.jpg
BornBarking, Essex, UK
Alma materSandhurst, University of Dundee
InterestsUK/Secret trials
Interest ofRobert Stuart
A freelance reporter, film maker and A&E doctor with a Sandhurst background. She has traveled to conflict zones in North Africa and Asia and made films and news reports including Libya, Syria, Bosnia, Palestine, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. She appeared with "Dr Rola" in the controversial 2013 video shown on the BBC's Panorama news programme calling for humanitarian bombings of Syria.

Saleyha Ahsan is a UK born doctor cum journalist, a Sandhurst alumna, with a spooky profile. She has been active in warzones including Bosnia, Libya and Syria.


Saleyha Ahsan was born a UK citizen in Essex[1], but has stated that "my roots are in Pakistan and Afghanistan."[2] The first Muslim woman to graduate from Sandhurst as a British Army Officer,[3] she joined the Royal Army Medical Corps and led her troop on a peace keeping mission in Bosnia where Ahsan reports that a Brigadier Dr Kevin Beaton "was my squadron commander in Bosnia and inspired me to study medicine".[4]. From 2001 to 2006 she studied Medicine at the University of Dundee, gaining an MBChB[5]. While studying medicine she was awarded scholarships and awards and developed her career as a filmmaker. She continues to work as an A&E doctor.


Specialising in reports of suffering from war zones, Ahsan has had a remarkable career as a journalist, producing films for a variety of different UK TV and radio programmes, national newspapers and journals. She is a columnist for the [[Guardian].[6] and has written for the Lancet, The Independent[7] and the New Internationalist.[8]. She works for Knight Ayton as a "news and current affairs presenter". In 2014, she narrated "How did WW1 change the way we treat war injuries today?" for the BBC.[9]


In 2003 Saleyha went back to Bosnia where she had served with the Army, to film "for a charity supporting conflict recovery".[10]


Ahsan herself reported that "It was by some bizarre fluke that returning home from that first short trip that I sat next to Nader Elhamessi, a Libyan, a Londoner for many years and one of the founders of the aid organization World for Libya".[11] She spent six months "independently filming doctors on the frontline" and producing reports which were aired by BBC online, BBC’s From Our Own Correspondent, Channel 4 News online, the BMJ online and Latitude News. Ahsan is quoted as stating that she "found on (sic.) organisation online called Global Relief Libya - doctors organising themselves and getting involved".[2]


Apparent coincidence also took Dr Ahsan to Syria; at a Royal Society of Medicine event in London early in 2012 she reportedly first met Dr Rola[12] whose charity, Hand in Hand for Syria, invited her to Syria in December of that year.[13] The BBC reported in 2016 that Ahsan had "helped raise more than £180,000 to build a children's hospital on the outskirts of embattled Syrian city, Aleppo".[14]

Saving Syria's Children‎‎

Full article: Saving Syria's Children‎‎
Saving Syria's Children.jpg

Dr Ahsan featured in a controversial 2013 video with Dr Rola which was shown on the BBC in the run up to a UK parliamentary vote on whether to bomb Syria. On the 4th of September, 2013, she published an article stating that she witnessed the Dr Rola Aleppo school 'napalm' attack of 27th August, 2013.[15] On the 6th of November, 2013, she posted a story as a guest blogger on the UK DFID website entitled Saving Syria's children which changed the date to 26th August, and expanded very slightly on the information disclosed about it hitherto.[13] Robert Stuart has highlighted various contradictory statements about the purported attack.

image credit:Robert Stuart[16]
image credit:Robert Stuart[17]
image credit:Robert Stuart[18]


Even while otherwise employed, such as while studying medicine, Ahsan has been remarkably successful at continuing to produce films.

2001 - Dangerous Journeys

Ahsan's Linkedin page reports that in 2001 she successfully pitched an idea to Channel 4 to travel to India and Pakistan and spend 5 weeks there[5] recording interviews with the Kashmiri Mujahideen. "After gaining exclusive access just weeks after 9/11" she presented a BBC5 Live special report from a Mujahideentraining camp in Kashmir[8] and produced Dangerous Journeys (by Chameleon Films).

2002 - Article 17-Doctors in Palestine

While studying medicine Ahsan was sponsored by the British Council to make this film, which is available on Youtube[19]. Article 17 of the 4th Geneva Convention states that "civilians should be able to access health care in situations of conflict", which Ahsan found not to apply in Palestine.

2005 - Letters From Belmarsh

Ahsan read letters to prisoners in Belmarsh prison, on BBC Radio 4.[20]

2007 - My Mother's Daughter

Ahsan's debut cinematic short film was the 12 minute My Mother’s Daughter[21] which won Best European Film at the 2008 Pangea Film Festival, Los Angeles. The vimeo description reads: "Joyce, Yvonne Ridley’s mother, a devout Christian relays this account of when her daughter, a journalist came back from Afghanistan after being detained by the Taliban converted to Islam."[22]

2010 - Crossfire in Kashmir

A Channel4 documentary, set in Kashmir.[23]

2013 - Trust Me I'm A Doctor

In 2013 Ahsan co-presented BBC2's popular Trust Me I'm A Doctor in which she gave some simple lifesaving tips and answered viewer's health-related questions.[24]

2015 - The Road to Bani Walid

In February 2015, BBC Radio4 broadcast The Road to Bani Walid about Selyha Ahsan, describing it as "the story of her journey to confront the reality of revolution - and of her own reasons for being there."[25]

In production

She is reported to be working with the Raindance Filmmaking Institute on her first feature film script.[26]


Ahsan's website has stated that she is interested in "the growing use of secret evidence within the British justice system".[27]

In 2010 she published a piece in the Guardian entitled Guantánamo: holding the 'healers who harm' accountable[28] critical of torture at Guantanamo Bay.

In 2011 she completed a masters degree in International Human Rights and Humanitarian Law from Essex University.

In 2012 she published a piece in the Guardian entitled Secret evidence is the state's secret weapon The Home Office argues for secret evidence in Siac deportation cases on national security grounds – except when it applies to them about the use of secret evidence in the special immigration appeals commission.

Recent employment

Ahsan has worked as an Ysbyty Gwynedd Pre-hospital Emergency Medicine Clinical Fellow since October 2016.[29]


  2. a b BBC: The road to recovery inside Libya's mountain hospital
  5. a b Linked In Profile
  6. Guardian profile page
  8. a b Knight Ayton profile page
  9. Transcript of "How did WW1 change the way we treat war injuries today?", BBC, February 2014
  13. a b Saving Syria's Children - DFID Guest Blog
  15. Triage and Terror
  19. Article 17-Doctors in Palestine
  22. Bridging the Gap
  27. Personal website coverpage