The White Helmets’ is a 2016 short documentary that claims to portray the Syrian ‘White Helmets’ in their struggle to save civilians in war torn Syria, from bombs dropped by the Assad regime. The film claims to follow a non-government volunteer organization (NGO) known as the Syrian Civil Defence Unit and showcases a great deal of graphic footage. Much of this footage is intended to give the viewer the impression that the white helmets in the Netflix film risk their lives on a daily basis to pull civilians from collapsed houses destroyed by Syrian and Russian air strikes, particularly in the ‘rebel’ held areas in Eastern section of the city of Aleppo.
The White Helmets or ‘The Syrian Civil Defence’ featured in the Netflix documentary was established in March of 2013 in the Turkish city of Istanbul and was founded and is headed by James Le Mesurier. This Syrian Civil defence or White helmet group seen in the Netflix documentary and discussed in this blog post is actually a recreation of the ‘real’ Syrian Civil Defence created in 1953. The original Syrian Civil defence group is a volunteer organization that has been active for the last 63 years and are still undertaking fire and rescue operations throughout Syria to this day. This use of Netflix as a tool for the dissemination of western propaganda comes as no surprise considering the huge volumes of fabricated stories and evidence present in mainstream western news and media.
Perhaps the most widely publicized incident featuring the ‘White Helmets’ we see in the Netflix documentary, is the supposed rescue of a young boy named Omran Daqneesh. Omran was filmed being rescued by white helmets from the rubble of a destroyed house, supposedly hit by a Syrian Assad or Russian air strike that killed both of his parents. The story of Omran was widely circulated on western mainstream news media outlets and a high quality picture of Omran sitting in the back of an ambulance, on an orange seat, was featured heavily. However, it quickly became apparent that the whole incident was more than likely simply opportunistic propaganda perpetuated by mainstream western news outlets such as The Washington Post, The BBC and Time. It was also revealed that the man who captured the image of Omran, “Mahmoud Raslan”, was actually affiliated and photographed with a group of men that recorded themselves beheading a child.