Congressman Adam Kinzinger, R-Channahon, and Congressman Brendan Boyle, D-Pa., sent a joint letter to President Trump on May 4 urging him and the administration to reconsider their decision to freeze funding to the White Helmets in Syria, Morris Herald News reports.
The White Helmets, also known as the Syrian Civil Defense, are a group of volunteers who work across the country to help victims of the continuous bombings, airstrikes, and other attacks since the start of the Syrian War in 2011. The group was nominated for the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize for their work and just a few months ago, they visited the State Department and Capitol Hill, praised for their heroic work to save lives.
“The White Helmets risk life and limb to save the lives of thousands of Syrians. These unarmed volunteers put their lives on the line to carry out daring search-and-rescue missions amid bombings, airstrikes, or other attacks on their neighbors and fellow Syrians. And for that selfless work, they’ve been targeted by the Assad regime, the Russians, and the Iranians. They have saved thousands of lives and this funding is critical to their continued efforts as the Syrian War continues,” Kinzinger said.
At the same time, UK Prime Minister has said that London may increase its support to the White Helmets, The Guardian adds. The announcement comes in wake of the U.S. halting its funding of the controversial NGO and evidence presented by Russia of falsified videos made by the group. Theresa May said she would consider plugging the gap, acknowledged the important work done by the organisation in “horrendous” conditions. Since 2011, the UK has provided £2.71bn in aid to the Syrian humanitarian effort. Of this, £38.4m went through the conflict, stability and security fund to the White Helmets, a freedom of information request revealed this month.
“We recognise the very important and valuable work that the White Helmets are doing. They are, as he says, doing this in horrendously difficult conditions. They are incredibly brave to be continuing that work. We do support them, we will continue to support them and … the international development secretary will be looking at the level of support in the future,” May said.
The White Helmets have faced accusations of collaboration with al-Qaida and, after publishing footage that documented a chemical attack, were accused of staging chemical weapons offensives to discredit the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad. For years, Syria’s civil defence workers have been subjected to a vicious online propaganda campaign by the “electronic armies” of the Assad regime and Russia. The digital offensive accelerated following a 2016 Netflix documentary that was cited as evidence of “western bias in the Syrian conflict”.
But Sputnik discussed the issue with Fares Shehabi, member of the Syrian parliament for Aleppo, who says there’s nothing controversial in accusation against White Helmets.
“They were in Eastern Aleppo when it was liberated in 2016. We were there and we saw all White Helmets locations, offices, were the same as al-Qaeda locations. Al-Qaeda, which has the branch in our area, which is called al-Nusra Front, which are bin Laden boys; they take the orders from al-Zawahiri and Tora Bora. The al-Qaeda group sheltered, harbored, protected and helped the White Helmets. As a matter of fact also, most of White Helmets’ alleged rescuers were also al-Qaeda terrorists — all the time they were carrying weapons and they were doing terrorism. When the camera comes nearby, when they start to shoot fabrications they would wear their rescue outfits and they’d try to fabricate some cheap propaganda rescue operation; clear-cut evidence that this is an armed terror organization,”he says.
According to Shehabi, May is supporting this group simply because the MI6 established it for one purpose: just to do cheap propaganda purposes, to beautify terror organizations and justify military action against the legitimate Syrian government.
“The British intelligence, through the organization, funded by the UK Foreign Office this shadow group takes the money from the UK Foreign Office and channels this money to jihadis. That was in documents that we found and that’s the same thing found in different parts of Syria. Bear in mind that this group only operates under al-Qaeda, specifically in al-Qaeda jihadi controlled areas. Only. You don’t find them elsewhere,” he claims.
This evidence that they found show that the British government paid 200 million pounds in 2016 to this group. And they allocated 460 million pounds to be paid during 2018 to this group, again, through a shadow civil relief organization that really only channels to jihadi groups in Syria.
“We have evidence and we invite anyone that is interested in finding the truth. We have all the evidence; we have the names of these known terrorists that are getting money from the British Foreign Office. This is another arm of the British Foreign Office; it’s their baby they will continue to fund it,” Shehabi adds.
Roberto Vivaldelli, an Italian journalist and an author of the book “Fake News. Manipulations and Media Propaganda, From War in Syria to Russiagate”, in an interview for Sputnik throws more light on why the UK government may boost aid to White Helmets. According to him, White Helmets are founded by James Le Mesurier, a British private security specialist, and former British military intelligence officer. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the department of the United Kingdom responsible for promoting the interests of the country abroad, is the “main source of funding” of the NGO.
This money is made through the “Conflict, Stability and Security Fund (CSSF)”, a strategic fund used by the government abroad so secret that, last March, the former Conservative Defense Minister, Archie Hamilton, asked clarification of the current UK Secretary of State for Home Affairs, Amber Rudd, on how and where these contributions had been allocated — in the order of one billion pounds. Rudd explained that the names “had to remain secret in order not to create embarrassment” but admitted that those resources “make UK interests in unstable areas” and the money financing groups “like the White helmets in Syria, which do a great job”.
Some experts have noted that even if the White Helmets cease to exist another organization will be created to take its place, but Vivaldelli points that “White Helmets are revealed as a weapon of exceptional propaganda. I think we’ll see them sooner or later in other war contexts.”