Who is attacking the Jo Cox Fund for supporting Syria’s rescue volunteers?
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The day after Jo Cox was killed, Nick Griffin, former leader of the far right BNP, attacked the Jo Cox Fund for supporting the rescue volunteers of Syria Civil Defence, also known as the White Helmets.Nick Griffin publicly supports the Assad dictatorship in Syria.
Nick Griffin’s attack on the Jo Cox Fund repeated a long-running smear accusing Syria Civil Defence of being part of Jabhat al Nusra, Al Qaeda’s Syrian branch and a listed terrorist organisation. This accusation stems mainly from an incident on 5th May 2015 where Syria Civil Defence in Hreitan,northern Aleppo, were contacted and called upon to retrieve a corpse. When they arrived at the scene they found that an execution by an armed group was in progress. The Charter of Syria Civil Defence lists the tasks of the organisation which are provided for under International Humanitarian Law. One of these tasks is the emergency burial of the dead. It was under this task and mandate that the members of Hreitan Civil Defence were operating and there was no other organisation in Hreitan with the mandate for cadaver collection and burial.
Syria Civil Defence are volunteer search and rescue workers in Syria. Unarmed and neutral, they have saved more than 51,000 lives, mostly of civilians subjected to air attacks by the Assad regime,and more recently by the Russian air force.
Syria Civil Defence workers have repeatedly been direct targets of air attacks. Their facilities have been repeatedly bombed. Their volunteers have been killed in so-called double tap attacks, when aircraft return to bomb an area a second time just as rescue volunteers are working to save lives. Over 100 White Helmets volunteers have been killed in Syria’s war, the vast majority by the Assad regime.
Syria Civil Defence have received support for equipment and training from the UK Government and from London Fire Brigade amongst others.
The attacks on Syria Civil Defence didn’t begin with Nick Griffin. They have been a long running theme for Assad’s supporters on both left and right. One vigorous promoter of the ‘White Helmets are Al Qaeda’ smear is Tim Anderson, an Australian academic and vocal supporter of the Assad regime.
There has been controversy recently over Tim Anderson being invited to a conference on refugees asa keynote speaker.The Crossing Borders conference, to be held in Lesvos in July, is sponsored by Stopthe War Coalition and the Peoples’ Assembly Against Austerity. Other invited speakers Paul Mason and Nina Power have pulled out of the conference as a result of Tim Anderson’s scheduled appearance.
Other scheduled speakers along with Tim Anderson include Tariq Ali and Stop The War’s John Rees. Now Tariq Ali has joined in repeating the same attack on the Jo Cox Fund as Nick Griffin.
Stop The War’s leadership say that this is nothing to do with them, despite their sponsorship of the conference, and despite Tariq Ali being a patron of Stop The War and a regular speaker at Stop The War events. The wider peace movement should be asking themselves if this is still the leadership they want to represent them.