White Helmets: who do they answer to?

The BBC Panorama programme, Jihadis You Pay For, revealed that the ‘Free Syrian Police’ (FSP) could not operate except by the leave of the terrorist brigades that together have a de facto monopoly of force within the areas they occupy. The BBC’s inquiry found that UK Government funding for the FSP has been making its way to the terrorists too. There is obviously a public interest in knowing why the UK Government has been allowing funds to go to terrorists. Kate Osamor MP has sent ten urgent questions in this matter to Boris Johnson, Secretary of State at the Foreign Office.

Informed observers meanwhile point out that the Panorama programme may have revealed only part of a bigger problem. One obvious and important question is, given that the Free Syrian Police are in practice answerable to the terrorists, what about the White Helmets? They work in the same environment and have no evident means of resisting demands for whatever tribute or service those with the weapons choose to exact from them. There is a direct public interest in this question given that the UK Government, along with others, provides substantial funding to them. (This has been confirmed by Boris Johnson himself.) If some of the funding to the FSP goes to the terrorists, why should we imagine that none is taken from the White Helmets?

To date, the mainstream narrative has maintained that the White Helmets are fiercely independent. If with respect to funding this is simply untrue, with respect to operational autonomy it seems implausible. What reason could there be to think that they have greater independence from terrorist command than the FSP does? Not only is it all but impossible to think how that could be the case, there is also evidence to suggest that the White Helmets in fact operate closely with the terrorists. According to the research carried out by independent journalists, and notably Vanessa Beeley, it even appears that some of the White Helmets themselves are and/or have been members of the terrorist brigades.

This is a question that seems to be quite scrupulously avoided by the mainstream media. But it is not lost on the members of the public who are paying attention. Our number is growing.

The public interest has a greater human concern than whether some funds are syphoned off.  The role of the White Helmets is not only to provide services on the ground in Syria; it is also to provide information to the rest of the world about what is happening in opposition-held areas in Syria.  If almost everything we think we know about the reality there is transmitted via the White Helmet’s organisation, and if that organisation itself is not autonomous of the terrorists, then what we can know may only be what the terrorists want us to know. That would mean our government is not only providing terrorists with support, it is effectively putting us at their service. As citizens and tax payers we should demand to know more from our government about such possible complicity in the terror inflicted on the people of Syria.



This entry was posted in BBC, journalism, media, propaganda, Syria, Syrian opposition, UK Government, Uncategorized, war, White Helmets. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to White Helmets: who do they answer to?

  1. garyaz says:

    This is slightly OT Tim but some of your twitter followers (shieldssage) might be interested/intrigued how your e-mail conversation went with George Monbiot regarding the Alleged Syrian gas attack at Khan Shaykhun? It may be ongoing or none of our business you might say which is fair enough or you may be able to disclose if George continued the witchfinder general- western narrative act?
    George has been willing to publish e-mail debates with academics in the past. Here is a fascinating one, albeit on an entirely different topic, with Paul Kingsnorth


    Pauls won that one hands down- in my opinion.

  2. Smith says:

    Having worked for one of the companies that worked on the AJACS programme, and having worked on Syria for five years, I can tell you that the Panorama programme was deeply misleading and based on pathetically shoddy journalism. Panorama’s report was based on the stories of three totally unreliable sources, including two former ASI staff members: Tariq Khalil, fired for corruption and Wasim Anawi who attempted to extort funds with threats to discredit the project through contact with journalists.The source identified by Panorama as a human rights lawyer had applied to work for AJACS but was rejected because he failed vetting processes.

    I can tell you that all of us who work on Syria are fully aware of the risks relating to terrorists benefiting from our programmes. We spend days and nights trying to understand the context to mitigate these risks and provide our donors with the best information possible so they can make decisions. The Panorama programme was a missed opportunity to show the difficulties of working in this context, why we’re doing what we’re doing and the potential downsides. It was pure hackery.

    • AdrianD says:


      I don’t think many of Tim’s readers will be that surprised to hear of Panorama displaying shoddy journalism and am glad to hear that you take steps to mitigate the risks.

      However, I’d be very interested to hear how well you think this has been accomplished given the problems identified in Tim’s post.

  3. AdrianD says:

    And now we have the Guardian failing to answer any of the pertinent questions and continuing with their six-degrees-of-Kevin-Baconery ‘Russian propaganada’ smear pieces.


    Yet again, they fail to engage with any of the substantive, and best evidenced criticisms (on UK/US/French funding, Le Mesurier, medical malpractice , masses of photographic evidence etc etc etc) and trot out the same old lies (WH ‘documented a CW attack in April’ etc etc.)

    I can’t blame Olivia Colon for giving this a try as Carole Cadwalladr has just won an award for similar pieces on Russian meddling in the Brexit referendum.

    Both are cases where the ‘collusion’ is now the story and the underlying facts are simply a side-show if mentioned at all.

    I don’t know if you’ve been paying much attention to Cadwaladr’s pieces on Russian meddling in the Brexit referendum, but they’re worth reading for the hoops she jumps through to implicate ‘the Kremlin’. Yes the funding for LeaveEU was probably ‘murky’, but all of her shock-horro claims for there being any effect at all on the outcome of the referendum rely entirely on the claims Cambridge Analytica themselves have made about the efficacy of their targeting methods – and they, like the White Helmets couldn’t possibly have any incentive to exaggerate them could they? That Cadwalladr’s award was for ‘technology journalism’ was laughable.

  4. Shieldssage says:

    Well said Adrian. Ive been following the twitter reaction to that laughable Guardian propaganda piece. No mention of the WH funding in the article is just one of many glaringly obvious omissions. Its almost a tragic-comedy that below that Guardian article is a plea for reader financial sponsorship to “support the Guardian’s independent, quality and investigative journalism”.
    You couldnt make it up-and they wonder why their readership is haemorrhaging……

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s