On Saturday 7th January the Syria Civil Defence was alerted about a video entitled “The White Helmets: The Mask of Terror” produced by the Russian media agency “Anna News”. The video contains many false claims but our biggest concern is the forced confession of Abdulhadi Kamel. He is a volunteer from Eastern Aleppo, now being detained by the Syrian regime. We are deeply upset to see our friend and colleague in such obvious distress, and we call for his immediate release, we hold the regime and its allies responsible for his safety and the preservation of his life.
Abdulhadi Kamel has been a volunteer with the Syria Civil Defence since May 2013. On Friday 16 December, Abdulhadi was part of a convoy of forced displaced civilians traveling from Eastern Aleppo to the Western countryside. In clear violation of international humanitarian law and the guarantees of the Russian Government to protect the convoy, the convoy was stopped and attacked by the Syrian regime and its allies. 4 civilians were killed and 10 injured, including Abdulhadi. According to fellow volunteers on the convoy he was shot in the shoulder. After the assault, the militias moved all of the dead and injured to areas under their control and sent the convoy with the remaining internally displaced people back to besieged Aleppo. Since then we have been unable to contact Abdulhadi. This is the first time we have seen him since his capture.
Two days after Abdulhadi's arrest we heard from some local sources that Abdulhadi was taken to the regime's Air Force Intelligence branch in Aleppo. However, we did not acknowledge his arrest or capture in public for fear of further endangering Abdulhadi given the regime’s systematic targeting and torture of humanitarian workers.
We have no doubt that he has been forced to make a false confession for propaganda reasons. One glance at his face is enough to realise that this man is not speaking his mind, he is speaking out of fear for his life. The Assad regime has a long history of broadcasting false confessions from those they consider ‘terrorists’.
The claims made that the Syria Civil Defence volunteers are actors have no basis in reality. The Syria Civil Defence (White Helmets) is a Humanitarian organisation, non-political or military, according to the principles of the Geneva Convention of 1949 and is committed to neutrality and non-discrimination. We managed since the founding of the White Helmets in March 2013, to today, to save more than 82,280 lives and our lifesaving work is recognised with multiple humanitarian awards, including the nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize and most importantly by the communities we come from and serve.
The Syrian Regime and its ally Russia are running an ongoing propaganda campaign against Syria Civil Defence and other humanitarian organisations. We will continue to do our best to ignore these online attacks and focus on the important work of serving our communities. What matters to us today is to save the live of our colleague Abdulhadi Kamel, who is accused of being an humanitarian worker and life-saver.