The ‘White Helmets’ Syrian civil defence group have distanced themselves from a viral ‘mannequin challenge’ video which led critics to raise serious questions about their work in the war-torn country.
The video depicted two members of the group assisting a man who was lying prostrate under rubble, apparently the victim of a bomb blast.
The man is covered in dust and appeared to be in great pain in the authentic-looking footage. However, the scene was staged – part of a mannequin challenge viral craze in which people freeze as if they are mannequins.
The short video was created by the Revolutionary Forces of Syria (RFS), an anti-Assad media outlet, which said it wanted to use the video trend to “raise awareness of the suffering of the Syrian people.”
The White Helmets are a volunteer civil defence organisation that is heavily backed by several western governments. They operate in rebel-controlled areas of Syria and were nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize earlier this year.
The organization says it is non-partisan. However, critics have alleged it has connections to jihadist groups.
In a statement published by CNN, the White Helmets distanced themselves from the video, describing it as an “error of judgement.”
“This video and the related posts were recorded by RFS media with Syria Civil Defence volunteers, who hoped to create a connection between the horror of Syria and the outside world using the viral ‘Mannequin challenge.’ This was an error of judgement, and we apologise on behalf of the volunteers involved,” the statement read.
“There are many questions over the methods used by the White Helmets, suggesting that they are not true paramedics anyway. And many of their videos have been proven to be fake. Children are taken out from under the rubble completely clean, no dust on them, taken out from areas that you can see that they could get out of on their own but taken out to the usual White Helmet paparazzi.”