In an article in the Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet 4 October, Senior Legal Advisor Cecilie Hellestveit is interviewed on the grounds of her expertise on Syria about recent allegations that the Syrian humanitarian organization the White Helmets has close ties with the Al Nusra front, which has been identified by the United Nations as a terrorist organization. At the same time, says the journal the Atlantic, the Assad regime accuses the White Helmets of being ‘western agents’.
The White Helmets is a Syrian civil defence, consisting of approximately 3000 volunteers. Established in 2013, it already claims to have rescued more than 60.000 people, an achievement that recently earned the organization the Right Livelihood Award, aka the alternative Nobel Peace Prize.
Hellestveit reminds Dagbladet’s readers that since the war in Syria started in 2011, large parts of the country have been cut off from international emergency aid. It is exactly this situation that has caused the need for a local organization. Hellestveit also argues that in order to get anything done in Syria today, you have no choice: you have to strike deals with other actors, including some with blood on their hands. The alternative is no aid at all. In a place like Aleppo, where many of the city’s hospitals have been destroyed and the capacity at the ones that are left is stretched to the limits, the White Helmets play a critical role in providing casualties with immediate care, and then bringing them to the hospitals. Syria’s current chaos creates room for rumour-mongers. Still, concludes Hellestveit, there is little reason to doubt that the White Helmets consists of people ready to risk their own lives to save others’.
To read Dagbladet’s full article in Norwegian, click here.