Film about Syrian White Helmets wins Oscar amid allegations of terrorist ties
“The White Helmets,” a 40-minute documentary, marks first Oscar win for director Orlando von Einsiedel.
The film revolves around the “perilous work of volunteers who brave falling bombs to rescue civilians from the carnage of Syria's civil war,” the description on its Netflix page says.
A synopsis, published on the Oscars website, reveals that the film is set “in the chaos of war-torn Syria” where “unarmed and neutral civilian volunteers known as ‘the white helmets’ comb through the rubble after bombings to rescue survivors.”
Patrick Henningsen, a geopolitical analyst at 21st Century Wire.com in an earlier interview to RT late last month explained how the footage was obtained.
The “film itself is not a real documentary,” he said. “All of the footage used in the film was provided to the producers by the White Helmets themselves. This film production crew - Netflix productions - did not film any of the so-called rescue scenes.”
“What this film is essentially a PR cushion for a $100-$150 million covert op, which is basically an NGO front funded by USAID, the British Foreign Office, various EU member states, Qatar, and other various and sundry nations, and members of the public, who quite frankly in my opinion and many others, have been duped into donating their money for this rescue group, that is anything but. It essentially functions as a support group alongside Al-Nusra and al-Din al-Zenki and other known terrorist groups operating in Syria. That is a fact that has been proven by a number of eyewitness testimonies.”
The White Helmets, also known as the Syrian Civil Defense, are “the largest civil society organization operating in areas outside of government control,” the group’s website proudly reads.
According to the group’s leader, Raed Saleh, those “unarmed and neutral rescue workers have saved more than 78,529 people from the attacks in Syria.”
The unit has also received praise from Amnesty International, describing it as "a group of neutral, unarmed volunteers.”
Although the rescue group largely appears to be in the MSM media’s good books, not everyone looks at the White Helmets’ activities through rose-tinted glasses.
White Helmets financially backed by West – journalist to RT
In December, Eva Bartlett, a Canadian journalist and rights activist who has traveled to Syria several times since the start of the conflict, said that members of the group “purport to be rescuing civilians in eastern Aleppo and Idlib [but] …no one in eastern Aleppo has heard of them.”
Bartlett noted during her highly emotional speech at the UN that “their video footage actually contains children that have been ‘recycled’ in different reports; so you can find a girl named Aya who turns up in a report in say, August, and she turns up in the next month in two different locations.”
The White Helmets operate in Syria’s rebel and Islamist territories and appear to enjoy the support of various western governments.
“They are fantastically brave, these White Helmets. I’m proud to say we’re giving them I think £32 million [$39.78 million] funding as part of a wider £65 million package for non-humanitarian aid,” British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said last year.
The rescue group, which was nominated for the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize, 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 has a vested interest in the Syria conflict,” Vanessa Beeley, independent researcher and journalist, told RT in October.
“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…,” she added.
Beeley believes that “there is massive video and photographic testimonial evidence from inside Syria to give evidence that they are running a terrorist support group.”
“If we look at their claims to be neutral, they are embedded entirely in terrorist-held areas whether it is predominantly Al-Nusra Front or ISIS or any of the various associated brigades of terrorists that take their command very much from Al-Nusra Front, that is where White Helmets are exclusively."
Beeley said the group members “provide medical care for the terrorists, they funnel equipment in from Turkey into the terrorist areas (…) They’ve been filmed participating and facilitating an execution of a civilian in Aleppo. They post celebratory videos to their social media pages of the execution of civilian Arab soldiers.”
She added that “from the testimony from the real Syria Civil Defense across Syria they have also been involved in the taking over of the real Syria Civil Defense units, the stealing of their equipment and the eventual massacres and kidnapping of real Syria Civil Defense crews.”
‘They are thieves’ – locals on White Helmets
The group’s rescue efforts go only as far as to release dramatic videos, Aleppo residents say. RT’s war correspondent Lizzie Phelan, reporting from Aleppo, spoke to some survivors who accused the group of being “camera posers, thieves, and raiders.”
“When they came to help the injured they stole from them,” one elderly man told RT. “If people are wearing jewelry, they cut it off. All of them are thieves.”
One man accused the White Helmets of intentionally killing his little daughter. “I took her to the Civil Defense hospital and they gave her an injection filled with air to kill her,” the devastated young father said in December.
One of the scandals surrounding the White Helmets' work in Syria was the group's “Mannequin Challenge” video. The rescue workers performed a stunt with a fake rescue as they staged a scene of saving a person from the rubble, raising questions over the authenticity of the group’s other frequently-posted videos.
Late last month, two members of the controversial White Helmets were barred from attending the Academy Awards, the producer of a documentary featuring the NGO said. White Helmets leader Raed Saleh and cinematographer Khaled Khateeb, both Syrian, were invited to the 2017 Academy Awards by Joanna Natasegara, the film’s producer, who expressed her outrage over the travel ban in a statement: “They’ve been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize,” she said.
“These people are the bravest humanitarians on the planet, and the idea that they could not be able to come with us and enjoy that success is just abhorrent.”
It’s not the first time Saleh has been banned from entering America. In April 2016, he had to return to Istanbul after discovering that his visa had been canceled by the US. This prevented him from receiving an award in Washington at a gala party supported by White Helmets sponsor USAID.