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The White Helmets: Civil Defense or Regime Change Prop

This week John sits down with independent journalist Vanessa Beeley as she recounts her first-hand experience of the Syrian conflict and one of its most controversial elements: the civil defense organization known as the 'White Helmets'.

The controversy over the White Helmets has become a central feature of the contested narrative when it comes to the conflict and crisis in Syria, which has just entered its seventh year.

The official depiction of the White Helmets by their supporters and sponsors in the West is of courageous civil defense volunteers risking their lives on a daily basis to rescue children and civilians from bombed out buildings as a result of the Syrian 'regime's' ongoing war against its own people. The fact that the Syrian government enjoys the support of the majority of Syrians, people who understand the difference between righting to save the government and fighting to save the country, is of course neither here nor there.

Challenging this positive depiction of the White Helmets, who operate exclusively in opposition-held territory, and who were established by a retired British army officer and private military contractor, is one which argues they are neither impartial nor entirely pure in their motives. Pictures of some of their members with guns in hand alongside Nusra Front terrorists would seem to cast serious and credible doubt on their impartiality, along with the fact they have received considerable funding from governments whose support for regime change in Syria is not in question.

Someone with intimate knowledge of the conflict in Syria, and who has undertaken a serious investigation of the White Helmets in recent years, is journalist Vanessa Beeley.

On this episode she discusses events in Syria, from where she has just returned, and her analysis of a group that depending on your viewpoint is either part of the solution or part of the problem.

Hard Facts is out every Wednesday. You can join in the conversation here.


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