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19 Oct, 2016 21:44

‘We don’t hide it’: White Helmets openly admit being funded by Western govts

A chief liaison officer of the White Helmets has acknowledged to RT that his organization, which claims to be “non-governmental” and “neutral,” receives funding and equipment from several western states, including the US, the UK and Germany.

“We do not hide it, we admit [that] there is funding from the USA, from the UK, from Germany, from Netherlands,” Abdulrahman Al Mawwas, the chief liaison officer of the White Helmets, told RT after a meeting with top French officials including President Francois Hollande and Prime Minister Manuel Valls on Wednesday.

He also said that “support” from western powers includes providing the White Helmets with “equipment… vehicles as well as search and rescue [aid].” At the same time, Al Mawwas vehemently denied any political affiliation of his organization by saying that they were established independently by a group of volunteers “from inside Syria.”

“We are a humanitarian organization. We cannot enter into politics or military issues. The war is not fought by humanitarians. We try [to do] what we can, but the problem is political and military,” he told RT.

However, for some people, his words do not sound convincing enough. Vanessa Beeley, an independent researcher and journalist, who personally travelled to Syria and visited the war-torn city of Aleppo, told RT that the White Helmets cannot be in fact called a non-governmental organization as “they are multimillion funded by various NATO states that have declared a vested interest in a regime change in Syria.”

“We see them being received by top government officials in France, like Manuel Valls, the prime minister,” she said, referring to the meeting between Hollande, Valls and the representatives of the White Helmets.

“White Helmets cannot declare themselves neutral and impartial when they are wined and dined by a nation that has clear publicly declared interests in regime change in Syria,” Beeley added.

She also stressed that repeated calls for a no-fly zone over Syria issued by the White Helmets “on various occasions” also demonstrate that they are echoing the western agenda. Meanwhile, Al Mawwas in fact reiterated this call in an interview with RT.

“If there is no-fly zone, if there is no stop in the bombings from all sides, there will not be peace in Syria,” he said. At the same time, he also added that he “cannot see” any possibilities of a successful dialogue between the West, Russia and the Syrian government, although he acknowledged that could bring peace to Syria.

Al Mawwas also dismissed all accusations concerning alleged links between the White Helmets and any terrorist organizations by saying that “it is just… words.” He stressed that his organization is a humanitarian one and added that “from 2013 and until now, [the White Helmets] were able to rescue 70,000 people.”

In the meantime, Vanessa Beeley drew attention to the fact that the White Helmets “are embedded exclusively in the areas controlled by Al Nusra and Islamic State” (IS, former ISIS/ISIL).

She also said that the group has been involved in “recycling the photos of children” that suffered from the Syrian conflict. “That is something that they have been doing throughout their existence as regards their propaganda campaigns,” Beeley told RT.

Al Mawwas said that the group’s documentaries are aimed at demonstrating “the real face of the Syrian people” by showing those, who “are trying to save lives and [seek] peace.”

The White Helmets are known for spreading a large number of mostly politicized images aimed at decrying the actions of the Syrian government forces.

Meanwhile, the group is called “Syrian first responders, who risk their lives to save others in war-torn Aleppo” and dubbed “heroes” by the Western MSM and made candidates for the Nobel peace prize. A petition in support them receiving the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize gained more than 300,000 signatures, although they did not eventually win it.

Some high-ranking western politicians, including British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, have openly expressed their support for the group. “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 non-humanitarian aid,” Johnson had said.

In the meantime, videos spread online have hinted that the group might have connections to some terrorist organizations such as Al Nusra. One video demonstrated what seemed to be White Helmets taking part in an execution of a civilian.

The group’s leader, Raed Al-Saleh, was denied entry into the US in April 2016 but was allowed back in September. US State Department spokesman Mark Toner struggled to explain Al-Saleh’s travel ban and eventually admitted that he is “suspected of having ties … with the extremist groups.”