Syria’s White Helmets are multi-million funded, ‘can’t be independent’
A petition in support of the White Helmets receiving the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize collected more than 300,000 signatures, but didn’t help the group take home the coveted trophy.
The White Helmets, also known as the Syrian Civil Defense, who rescue civilian victims of bombardments, largely operate in rebel-held areas.
“The White Helmets wake up every day to save the lives others are trying so hard to take. These volunteer rescue workers have saved 62,000 lives in Syria and for that, they are under constant attack, unarmed and impartial,” the rescue group’s Nobel page says.
They claim to be first responders. Fire-fighters, medics, rescuers. They operate, exclusively in Syria’s rebel and Islamist territories.
“They are fantastically brave, these White Helmets. I’m proud to say we’re giving them I think £32 million [US$39.78 million] funding as part of a wider £65 million package for a non-humanitarian aid,” British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said.
They also claim to be Syria’s civil defense network. In fact, they are not.
“The White Helmets are not even civil defense concretely. We are working in the field and only with official governments… Not the White Helmets,” International Civil Defense Organization in Geneva said in a statement.
Despite the group’s popularity, the organization’s leader was denied entry to the US earlier this year, triggering suspicions his name had popped up on a terrorist database. The State Department struggled to explain his deportation, with deputy spokesman Mark Toner saying he “can’t speak specifically on this case.”
Members of the White Helmets are often the first to take photos and videos from the scene of destruction.
“Many times they are making the photo and making the video when the people are dying. Except he will do his A B C,” Dr. Bassem Hayak from Aleppo Medical Association told RT. “When there is a disaster, who would take a photo in Syria?”
Not everyone in the West looks at the rescue group’s activities through rose-tinted glasses either.
“This aid group, the White Helmets, is a UK/US-funded organization that does a lot of good work in Syria; it works in the rebel-held and largely in the Al-Nusra [Front]-held areas. But it also has a secondary – or, as many people would argue – primary function that it provides an almost continuous commentary of anti-Assad messages,” Daniel McAdams, executive director at the Ron Paul Institute, told RT late last month.
“You could not deny that if you look at their Twitter feed. And it is also significant that only two weeks ago the White Helmets were among a group of US/UK-backed alternative aid agencies who publicly condemned what most people would consider a neutral UN and neutral Syrian Red Crescent for what they claimed to be their ‘pro-Assad stance.’”
The rescue group has repeatedly claimed to be independent of their anti-Assad sponsors, roots and overlords, saying they are unsullied by Western cash.
“They claim that they receive no funding from any government that have a vested interest in the Syria conflict,” Vanessa Beeley, independent researcher and journalist, told RT. “And yet, they are in fact multi-million funded, conservatively speaking, a hundred million dollars, from the US – [$]23 million via USAid; UK around [$]65 million; France is supplying equipment…”
The White Helmets can’t be independent by definition, Hayak told RT.
“Any NGO can’t be independent, because independent people can take [their own] decisions, and nobody there can take decisions, except Al-Nusra [Front],” because they have weapons, he said.