This is what he wrote:
Thank you for contacting me about Syria Civil Defence, also known as the White Helmets, and also for your kind comments about my work locally, which are much appreciated.
I was interested to read your comments, and agree that we must do what we can to help those less fortunate, both at home and overseas. The situation in Syria is certainly not black and white, but the White Helmets are in fact the most successful rescue organisation working in opposition-controlled areas of the country. To date they have saved more than 60,000 lives and were nominated for the Nobel peace prize in both 2015 and 2016 in recognition of their efforts to alleviate the suffering of the Syrian people.
As you note, the UK has provided financial support to the White Helmets through the cross-department Conflict Pool and its successor, the Conflict Stability and Security Fund (CSSF). Any use of CSSF funds is scrutinised to ensure that the provision of funding is consistent with export controls and complies with our international obligations. Recipients of CSSF funding have been carefully selected to prevent equipment being given to those involved in extremist activities or human rights violations. There is also constant monitoring of the situation in the ground and I have no doubt that the relevant authorities in the UK will be regularly reviewing their aid to the Syrian region to ensure it is used as intended. It is, of course, worth noting that investing in a stable Syria is in itself investing in the prevention of subsequent potential terrorism at home. In short, while there are aid projects with which many of us may quibble, I am not sure the White Helmets is an example of bad practice; quite the opposite.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me. I will keep your comments in mind.
Matt Warman MP
This was my reply to this letter.
Thank you for your swift response Mr Warman.
The reason I have such doubts about the White Helmets is due to research I have undertaken for over 12 months. Here are just some instances of their worrying behaviour.
The White Helmets are not (as they widely claim) the Syrian Civil Defence. The real Syrian Civil Defence have been registered with the International Civil Defence Organisation since 12/09/1972. The telephone number to call them is 113 (when inside Syria).
The group claim to be unarmed and impartial, insisting they help all the people in Syria. This is not true. They only operate in rebel held areas of Syria and there are countless images of them carrying weapons. They have also been recorded removing the body of an executed prisoner, (killed by a terrorist faction) immediately after he was murdered.
There are a huge number of White Helmet volunteers who have been positively identified as being members of the criminal extremists that are plaguing Syria, including Al Nusra and their many off shoots.
Professional search and rescue experts have revealed many unsafe practices used by the White Helmets and accused them of not using rescue tools correctly. Nor do they have particularly suitable protective clothing for such a dangerous job.
The White Helmet training facilities are directed primarily from Turkey, which has been active in allowing free movement of extremists and weapons across the porous border with Syria.
Mayday Rescue appears to oversee the White Helmet operations. The numerous staff they employ appear to be a mixture of anti Assad demonstrators and former military officers.
They don’t appear to know if they are ‘Syrian Civil Defence’ or ‘Syrian Civil Defense’. Fortunately I do, they are neither, and they don’t even have an emergency telephone number they can be contacted on.
According to escapees from East Aleppo, the White Helmets concentrated on addressing military personnel victims, not civilian.
From their inception, they have used the name of another entity. They claimed to be impartial, unarmed and willing to help anyone in distress, regardless of who they support in this conflict. Despite their extremely efficient PR team, glossy image and even promotion by Netflix and George Clooney, they are suspicious. Their claims of rescuing thousands of victims can’t possibly be verified, certainly not in a war zone. Also, claims of losing 155 martyrs is only supported by information on two of them, both from August last year. Not exactly an honourable way to remember the fallen.
You’ve already made your views clear on this matter Mr Warman, I just wanted to express my opinion. If you like, you can consider this dialogue to be completed, as I know you have many other issues to address. Thank you for your time.
I gave him the option of ending our conversation because I didn’t want to get into a slanging match and I do respect his opinion, even though I disagree with it. Living in a democracy, albeit not perfect, does give me the option of communicating with my democratically elected representative, which is more than what Syrians living under ISIS control are able to do. Any questioning of terrorist policy will end in certain death.
Western criticism of the Assad government doesn’t justify encouraging and even helping a replacement regime that would be far more brutal. Why remove a secular government that, despite its faults, protects all minorities? Yes, groups within Syrian society probably do deserve more favourable treatment but are we really being asked to believe ISIS will solve the problem? There is nowhere in the world that is ‘corruption free’ and if we want to remove criminal behaviour from every government, there are far more urgent cases than Syria. We could start with the US and UK regimes first.