Netflix’s documentary on the Syrian Civil Defense “White Helmets” (named after the common English-language term for the group) has received both extensive international media coverage and praise. The feature follows three members of the group as they perform rescue and emergency medical operations in rebel-controlled east Aleppo–one of the most war-torn areas in Syria. However, not everyone is a fan of the group.
As the Netflix documentary gains popularity, some on social media are calling The White Helmets terrorists and criticizing them, alleging they have ties to various rebel groups. Is the criticism fair?
Much of the criticism centers around the idea that The White Helmets have ties to jihadist rebels. A common trend is their critics posting pictures of The White Helmets, then pictures of the same people seemingly dressed in typical jihadi attire.
Such critics often call The White Helmets “Al-Qaeda” to this end, and regularly share a YouTube video entitled “Netflix and the White Helmets, hand in hand with al Qaeda.” Similarly, the video argues that members of the group are also members of jihadist groups and Al Qaeda. It shows an image of the two men in white helmets celebrating with clearly jihadist rebels, and other similar ones.
The White Helmets’ assistance to injured Syrians is well-documented, and their some 2,900 members regularly perform emergency medical services and rescue missions throughout the country. They primarily operate in rebel-controlled areas where aid from outside organizations is often hard to receive, as evident in the Aleppo-bound UN convoy struck by an airstrike last night. Many jihadist groups like Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (formerly Nusra Front) also operate in rebel-held areas, which undoubtedly helps fuel the jihadist allegations.
Both Syria and Russia have also accused The White Helmets of jihadist ties, which The White Helmets deny.
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