Meet the “Violet” Successors to MI6’s “White Helmets” Syria Psy Op
White is out, violet is in. Still the same psy op manned by Islamists and bankrolled and instructed by the west, on the inside
“To be purple means to be gifted, hopeful, and sacrificed”—motto of the Violet organization
While the world is distracted by the Covid-19 crisis, scant attention has been paid to events in Syria. The US-led coalition is maintaining a savage multispectrum war on the country, but few are aware of the suffering of the Syrian people as the media have barely reported on the starvation, economic catastrophe, scorched-earth policy, and war crimes directly committed by the US-led coalition and indirectly via their client terrorist groups. All of these are components of the US-led spoiler policy designed to economically reduce Syria to a failed state, a sinister objective they were unable to achieve militarily.
The White Helmets’ Fall from Grace
For seven years of the hybrid war waged against Syria by the US-led coalition, the White Helmets were the flagship manufacturers of much of the propaganda aimed at maintaining the criminalization of the Syrian state, its army, and its allies. Their multimillion-dollar PR image has recently taken a battering, however. From their involvement in the Douma chemical weapon hoax to accusations of their murdering civilians and planting corpses for use as “props” in images used to justify US-led coalition bombings of Syria, the White Helmet organization has been discredited on several occasions and is no longer a pristine brand.
Even prior to the exposure of their collaboration with the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), itself recently exposed as a corrupt and compromised organization, the White Helmets were reported to have participated in various terrorist war crimes including the execution of prisoners of war and civilians. A study carried out by Maxim Grigoriev of the Foundation for the Study of Democracy raised the issue of organ and human trafficking and child abuse by this same group. Grigoriev’s seminal investigation is supported by testimonies I have also collated over my years of reporting on this terrorist-affiliated group.
#WhiteHelmets "use civilians, especially children as props for their movies. What kind of" humanitarian" carries guns? They are criminals wth many faces, more dangerous than terrorists. WH Main partners in #Idlib organ trade mafia." Dr Zaher Hajjo, Director Forensic Medicine
— vanessa beeley (@VanessaBeeley) May 16, 2019
A discussion I had with a senior UN official two years ago confirmed that many in the UN are aware of these crimes but know that they will never be investigated because the White Helmets are too “politicized”—meaning that the countries funding them will never openly admit that their intelligence asset in Syria was responsible for atrocities committed against the very civilians they claim to defend.
However, the Dutch government did withdraw funding in September 2018 following an investigation that concluded that there was a high risk of funds that were destined for the so-called humanitarian organization would end up in the hands of the various armed groups occupying and controlling the territory where White Helmets exclusively work.
Following the suspicious death of James Le Mesurier, the British military-intelligence founder of the White Helmets, in Istanbul in November 2019, investigations revealed his involvement in fraud and embezzlement of funds destined for the White Helmets. As a consequence, the German government demanded the repayment of 50,000 euros in March 2020 in connection with these financial irregularities. Western media are naturally trying to downplay the seriousness of these findings. A separate in-depth investigation into Le Mesurier’s business activities and covert role in Syria was carried out by the Working Group on Syria, Media and Propaganda and can be read here.
The controversy surrounding the White Helmets and their own members’ carelessness in posting images of themselves carrying weapons and fraternizing with terrorist groups, including Al Qaeda, has damaged their reputation in the public consensus. Yet, the media is still protecting this group as are the primary governments that fund them, the UK being the foremost defender of the construct. As a result, it seems increasingly likely that the White Helmets are going to be quietly shelved at some point in the hope that their crimes will be forgotten amid the Covid-19 chaos that has now swept across the world.
The White Helmets’ Replacement
While not a recent start-up, a group that goes by the name of the Violet Organisation has recently been gaining greater prominence in mainstream media reports covering the Syrian conflict. The Guardian, Middle East Eye, Al Jazeera, Al Araby, TRT World, and others have been increasingly referring to the Violet organization when upholding their long-standing anti–Syrian state narratives. It is worth underscoring that all the media mentioned have a transparent bias toward the “moderate” extremist cause and against the Syrian government and army.
In these more recent reports, the White Helmets are now regularly sidelined as “ambulance staff,” whereas, prior to their apparent fall from grace, mainstream media did not hesitate to heavily promote the group. Instead, the “hope still exists” strapline has now been firmly pinned to the Violet organization in Syria. Who are this group, and where did they come from?
In this, Part 1 of a series for Unlimited Hangout, I will provide information on the origins and sponsorship of the Violet Syria group. I will demonstrate that this group is yet another so-called grassroots outfit operating exclusively in terrorist-governed areas of Syria that is, once again, backed and promoted by the same governments and agencies that have been waging the multispectrum war against Syria and its allies for the last ten years.
Who Are the Violets?
The organization was allegedly founded in Idlib city in 2011 as a “humanitarian” volunteer group distributing food and aid. The group is now registered in Turkey, which may offer the first clue as to its affiliations in the Syrian conflict. A look at its partners and sponsors further increases the suspicion that the group may be following in the footsteps of the White Helmet construct as an instrument of US-allied imperialism.
According to the Violet organization’s website, the group’s aim is to rebuild parts of northern Syria by renovating, decorating, and refreshing parks, schools, and public spaces in Idlib city, which is controlled by Al Qaeda, or Hayat Tahrir Al Sham (HTS) as the organization has been rebranded. This project has been dubbed “Idlib’s Spring,” a throwback to the so-called Arab Spring that was largely orchestrated by US intelligence and that also launched the coalition’s destabilization campaign in Syria. Like the White Helmets that preceded them, the Violets are an organization operating exclusively in terrorist-held areas of Syria while claiming to be “a team of benevolent individuals motivated by love and faith to provide aid to the oppressed and the needy around the world.”
The Violet organization website demonstrates a strong connection to the refugee camps established in northwest Syria and also to the Covid-19 pandemic, which has been exploited to further promote this group’s centers as advancing the health and education of children in the region. Images of children wearing face masks are being exploited by the Violets on social media to raise money for the group.
The Violets boasted an impressive budget of $30 million in 2015–16, a massive sum considering that they allegedly began as a humble start-up consisting of only a few volunteers, which is a storyline similar to that used by the White Helmets. During this period, the Violets claim to have “reached out” to 2.7 million people, another interesting claim when one considers that the entire population of Idlib at this time was scarcely that large and that the Violets have, at maximum, 2,000 volunteers, according to their own website.
A 2011 UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimate placed the entire population of Idlib at 1,501,000, though this number may have increased with the influx of armed-group members and their families transferred there after the Syrian Army’s liberation of territory elsewhere in Syria.
Violet Management Team
The current CEO of the Violets, appointed in May 2020, is Hisham Dirani. Dirani is based in Gaziantep. Dirani’s previous experience was as the founder of an organization called Binaa Development, which focused on economic development and “implementing sustainable programs” inside Syria. Binaa had close ties with the UK government’s Department for International Development (DFID), the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the extremist-linked Assistance Coordination Unit (ACU). Binaa was also supported by Qatar’s Red Crescent, which was accused of funneling money to the armed groups in 2012 and was subsequently banned from Syria by the Syrian government. Oddly, only the 2015 financial accounts for Binaa are available on their website, as all links to later accounts are not working.
The director of the Violet “intervention” team is Mamoun Kharbout, who previously worked with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) in 2012, based in Idlib city. It is interesting that the connection has been made to SARC, perhaps representing an attempt to provide greater credibility for the Violets in order to distance themselves from the leadership of the White Helmets with their bias toward heavily armed groups. SARC was recognized by the International Red Cross Committee in Geneva (ICRC) in 1946. It has a headquarters in Damascus and fourteen branches in the fourteen governorates of Syria with seventy-five sub-branches.
It must also be noted that I have been told by Syrian civilians that members of SARC who are still operating in terrorist-held areas are not averse to working with armed groups and are not always sympathetic toward Syrian government–loyalist civilian populations that live under extremist occupation. While this is anecdotal, it is nevertheless worth mentioning in this context. There are also reports of SARC offices being seized by armed groups in northern Syria, which would suggest a mafia-style dynamic between the militias and any organizations working under their jurisdiction—the organizations may be coerced or incentivized into cooperating with these armed groups.
Another member of the Violet leadership is Fouad Sayed Issa, who is on the organization’s board. According to some reports, Issa was the original on-the-ground operative for the Violets in Idlib city. The organization originally consisted of sixteen-year-old Issa, his father, and three of his friends. Issa now claims that the organization has two thousand members across Syria, with an estimated one thousand based in northwest Syria.
Issa has been quoted by Syrian “opposition” media outlets, such as Enab Baladi, as describing the difficulties in ensuring that Violet members adhere to “humanitarian principles, values, neutrality and impartiality towards the beneficiaries.”
According to Issa, the problem lies with social media, just as it often did for the White Helmets:
“The problem lies outside working hours, primarily through social media sites, where volunteers express their ideas, religious or political affiliations, or personal thoughts. Here comes the organization’s mission to control nonalignment and abuse of others by its employees, especially as the matter harms the organization itself, and this is not easy.”(My emphasis)
Independent media outlet, Clarity of Signal, has provided what is perhaps the most comprehensive cache of White Helmet social media images and publications that expose individual members as armed-group members or sympathizers.
Given past precedent and Issa’s statement, it can be concluded that the Violets’ members work alongside sectarian extremist groups that may include Al Qaeda. A member of the White Helmet organization in Daraa, southern Syria, told me that, if the leader of a White Helmet group is part of Al Nusra Front (Al Qaeda), the whole group will be Al Qaeda. These so-called humanitarian organizations are, by design, sectarian in nature. Neither group appears to include members of religious minorities in Syria, they comprise exclusively Muslim Brotherhood and fundamentalist Sunni Muslim factions. Issa is surprisingly honest, perhaps because he is speaking to a sympathetic media outlet, but he gives a valuable insight into the nature of the Violet organization, as it mirrors that of the White Helmets, which was also described as inherently sectarian by their British intelligence cofounder James Le Mesurier.
One thing the Violets clearly have in common with the White Helmets is a penchant for slick professional publicity campaigns, as demonstrated by the content of their YouTube channel. I will go into greater depth regarding the significance of the photo below later in this article, but it demonstrates that the White Helmets and Violets collaborate closely in areas where Al Qaeda is in charge.
Who Backs the Violets?
The Violets are not shrinking when it comes to their partners. Their array of prominent governmental, UN agencies, and aligned organizations is striking because of the similarity to sponsors of the White Helmets. Despite working in a country that has been savagely impacted by US-led coalition economic sanctions, including those tied to the recently imposed Caesar Law sanctions, the Violets raise donations through the Bank of America, which apparently puts no restrictions on the financing of an organization working in Al Qaeda–held areas. Total “public” donations have amounted to almost $1 million so far this year.
A letter sent to the former US Secretary of State, John Kerry, in 2016, by the Washington-based Charity and Security Network, gives an indication of why the Violets, the White Helmets, the Asfari Foundation, and other US-led coalition aligned organizations might have been exempted from the sanctions:
“Finding a solution to this problem should be a priority for the Departments of Treasury and State. It is necessary to support US foreign policy goals. Many nonprofits carry out work funded by USAID, the State Department and the UN Treasury should support the governmental objectives of these agencies by fostering an environment in which the NPOs are able to access financial services and continue their operations.” (My emphasis)
In other words, those organizations that support US-allied foreign policy goals must be shielded from the economic pressures being brought to bear on the people of the targeted nation that they claim to be “saving” in order to serve the interests of US neocolonialism.
Along with the partners that are prominently displayed on the Violet website, additional sponsors are listed on the bottom of the website’s “Join Us” section. I have taken screenshots of these important backers in case they are removed at some point in the future. They include the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, the UK’s DFID, and the Asfari Foundation. Significantly, all three are also heavily invested in the White Helmet organization since its establishment in 2013. The White Helmets, notably, were also founded in Gaziantep, Turkey, and Jordan.
The Most Influential Violet Sponsors and Partners: What Does It Mean for Syria?
One of the Violet group’s sponsors missing from their website is Kuwaiti billionaire Sheikh Abdullah Alnouri and his Charity Society, which signed two strategic-partnership agreements in 2019 alongside the Islamic Development Bank and SPARK to “improve access for Syrian refugees to higher education and economic empowerment” in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, and Iraq.
Al Nouri has simultaneously been funding the Violets in Syria. Kuwait has been an ally of the US-led coalition in the war against the Syrian state and has actively supported terrorist groups committing atrocities against the Syrian people. Although Kuwait has, more recently, tried to normalize relations with Syria, the threat of Caesar Law sanctions being levied against them seems to have impeded the advancement of this strategy.
The connection between the SPARK-led education strategy and the Syrian refugees being contained within areas controlled by Al Qaeda (and affiliated groups) will be explored in greater detail in Part 2 of this series.
The remaining sponsors of the Violets are a similar cluster of state-affiliated agencies and governments to those that have funded the White Helmets—all have a clear interest in the removal of the current Syrian government and its president, Bashar Al Assad.
The British government, via the DFID, is once again involved in the funding of what is effectively another shadow-state construct, operating only in terrorist-controlled territory and incubated in Turkey. That Idlib is controlled by Al Qaeda while the British government is funding another organization working under the direction of a terrorist group seems to be of no concern:
“Most of Idlib is currently under the control of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), an alliance of fighting groups that includes factions formerly aligned with al-Qaeda, that is considered a terrorist organization by the British government.”
Middle East Eye
The Asfari Foundation was set up by the UK-based Syrian oil magnate, Ayman Asfari. Asfari is group chief executive of Petrofac Limited. He is a controversial figure even in Europe, having been previously investigated by the Serious Fraud Office in the UK after allegations of bribery and corruption in the gas and oil industry. Since 2009, Asfari has donated almost £700,000 to the UK Conservative Party, which has been in power since the regime change efforts against Syria began in earnest. He is a member of the Leaders Group, an “elite circle of donors” who are regularly invited to lunch with Tory influencers in return for paying £50,000 per year.