The story behind Russia's smear campaign against Syria's White Helmets

“Last Men in Aleppo” director Feras Fayyad explains how Russia has launched a smear campaign against the Syria Civil Defence aka the White Helmets. Following is a transcript of the video.

Feras Fayyad is a Syrian filmmaker. He’s been arrested and tortured by the Syrian government multiple times for making films and teaching others how to document their lives. Fayyad’s latest film follows the Syrian Civil Defence aka the White Helmets.

Feras Fayyad: They are like the first responders in New York who helped the victims of 9/11. The people who have the bravery and the responsibility to help the others. Because this is their neighbourhood, their city, their village.

They’re started by people who feel like they are responsible for saving their children, their neighbours, their friends. And most of them are well-known in their community and respected because they have access to the victim’s bodies. That means they need a lot of trust.

The Assad regime in Syria is heavily influenced by Russia.

Fayyad: The Syrian regime is controlled by Russians. Obviously for us in Syria we saw pictures of Putin next to Assad, they try to show you that nobody can, whatever they did in this country, nobody can change anything.

Russia and Syria have launched a smear campaign against the White Helmets and Fayyad’s film. They claim the White Helmets are a terrorist organisation.

Fayyad: All of this is propaganda that attacks them, which is very strange. There’s ISIS and there’s many terrorist groups, they’re interested more in attacking the White Helmets more than the other terrorist groups. They make the group of people who have saved more than 100,000 lives their enemy.

Every comment about the film, there’s the Russian hackers coming and writing something against this film and showing different pictures that manipulate the story. When you search about “Last Men in Aleppo” you see 80% against the film, 20% it shows some positive comment.

And that’s impactful actually, impactful with many people. They come to you and ask you, “How can I believe this? I heard this could be made in Hollywood or made for the Americans or made for different Western parties?” Now we are “fake news maker” or whatever because we are just telling the truth.

Generally, if you ask any Syrian what he wants, he’ll say, “I want justice, I want freedom, and I want equality, and I want to be respected for my dignity, and I want to live safely.” Nobody wants to take this journey and drown in the Mediterranean, nobody wants to sacrifice himself, and nobody wants to keep doing it.

The Syrian Civil War began in 2011. The UN Envoy for Syria estimates 400,000 Syrians have been killed.

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