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.