Syria's White Helmets apologise for Mannequin challenge
Since 2013, the White Helmets have searched for survivors in the aftermath air strikes, saving the lives of thousands.(AFP/File)
It appears as another achingly familiar scene from the Syrian civil war: An injured man lies in the rubble as two members of the Syrian Civil Defense, known as the White Helmets, come to his aid.
But unlike the slew of images we’ve been seeing from the conflict, the man and the White Helmets are frozen, the whole scene posed. This is the White Helmet’s version of the Mannequin Challenge, seen in a video released by activists from the Revolutionary Forces of Syria (RFS) "to raise awareness of the suffering of the Syrian people".
The White Helmets claim they are non-partisan and a regular source of video and eyewitness accounts from the thick of the fighting.
However, the viral challenge has backfired, supporting critics claims that the organisation fabricates reports and rescues. Most of these are pro-Assad and pro-Russia voices, purporting that the organisation in links to jihadist groups.
Following criticism, the White Helmets issued an apology, saying the video had not been sanctioned by the group's leadership team.
"The video and the related posts were recorded by RFS media with Syria Civil Defence (White Helmets) volunteers, who hoped to create a connection between the horror of Syria and the outside world, using the viral Mannequin Challenge," the statement read.
"This was an error of judgement, and we apologise on behalf of the volunteers involved.
"The video was not shared on our official channels, and we took immediate action to discipline those involved and prevent incidents such as this from happening again.
"Our volunteers are committed to saving lives by responding to, and reporting, war crimes in Syria.
"This leaves us open to attacks, not just from the bombs but from those who seek to silence us for telling the truth."
Nominated for this year's Nobel Peace Prize, the White Helmets comprise roughly 3,000 volunteer rescue workers in rebel-held areas.The video comes as the Syrian regime resumed heavy bombardment last Tuesday following a three-week lull. More than 300 people have been killed in Aleppo's rebel-held eastern districts over this period.
Since 2013, they have searched for survivors in the aftermath of the deadly air strikes, saving the lives of thousands.