One of the most controversial decisions at this year’s Oscar ceremony was the fact that The White Helmets, a movie produced by digital giant Netflix, won Best Documentary Short. For the company, it was their first-ever Oscar at the prestigious ceremony.
The 40-minute feature follows the daily operations of a group of volunteer rescue workers of the Syrian Civil Defense, also known as the White Helmets. The group received wide coverage in the mainstream media and is portrayed as heroes and saviors, who operate in parts of rebel-controlled Syria.
However, some criticized the White Helmets for providing a biased, exaggerated and one-sided account of the events in the war-torn country. Some even accused the group of having ties with terrorist organizations and being a means of propaganda against the Syrian government.
Radio Sputnik discussed the issue with Vanessa Beeley, journalist and peace activist, who has been investigating the activities of the group for years.
“We are seeing an organization that has been proven to be affiliated to al-Qaeda and al-Nusra Front, according to the testimonies of civilians who were released from the al-Nusra Front-led occupation of East Aleppo. When they were liberated in December 2016, I was there to speak with them, literally, when they emerged from four and a half year imprisonment under the terrorist regime,” Beeley told Sputnik.
According to the activist, civilians condemned the White Helmets as being affiliated with al-Nusra Front civil defense. And given that fact, the situation with a movie that praises al-Nusra adherents receiving the most popular American movie award, seems to be even more striking, the journalist noted.
“What is extraordinary is the fact that if this is a case, what we believe it is, then Hollywood, the powers behind Hollywood, have basically given credibility to a terrorist organization, which demonstrates perfectly who is running the show and who is continuing the regime change agenda in Syria that is led by military industrial complex, the United States, and supported of course by the UK, the EU, Turkey, Qatar and the Golf States,” the activist argued.
Among other critics of the movie which received the award for Best Documentary Short is Norwegian blogger Pål Steigan. In his opinion, the whole White Helmet business is “a downright fraud” from beginning to end.
“When East Aleppo fell, there wasn’t a single White Helmet anywhere to be seen. They had all vanished into thin air, together with the narrative of the heroic Syrian uprising that the mainstream media has been expelling for years,” the blogger wrote.
According to Steigan, the White Helmets are in fact none other than al-Nusra’s propaganda department, with a budget of at least $100 million, funded by the United States and other countries supposedly at war with terrorism.
The activities of the White Helmets have also been criticized by Turkish political analyst Hasan Sivri.
“The White Helmets is one of the cover groups used by the West to finance armed groups operating, alongside other groups, in the north of Syria,” he told Sputnik.
“Similar to the Free Syrian Army (FSA) which has been used for quite a long time as a cover for the activities of various radical groups. Now when the FSA project has almost outlived itself, its place has been taken by “The White Helmets” which are being called “civil defense,” he said.
Earlier, the White Helmets sparked online anger after the Revolutionary Forces of Syria Media Office (RFS) posted a video of them faking saving someone while doing a so-called “mannequin challenge,” the viral video trend in which people are filmed while frozen in motion.
The media quickly spotted the footage was clearly staged, which prompted the RFS to admit that the group’s staged “contribution” to the international mannequin challenge frenzy intended “to raise international awareness about the Syrian revolution in general, and the members of the Civil Defense, highlighting their role and sacrifices in protecting and saving the lives of civilians in Syria.”