Pink Floyd star Roger Waters' attack on Syrian White Helmets provokes outrage

Pink Floyd star Roger Waters' attack on Syrian White Helmets provokes outrage
A new attack by Roger Waters on Syria's White Helmets, where he blamed them for the murder of 34 people in the city of Douma has caused outrage among Syrians.
3 min read
19 May, 2019
This is the second attack by Roger Waters on Syrian rescuers the White Helmets (Getty)

Former Pink Floyd bassist and lyricist Roger Waters has provoked outrage on social media once again with a new attack on the White Helmets, the first responders who assist victims of Russian and Assad regime airstrikes on opposition-held Syrian cities.

In a Facebook post entitled “A note from Roger”, Waters claimed that a leaked “OPCW [Organisation for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons] engineers report” had vindicated him for a claim he made at a concert in Barcelona in April 2018 that the White Helmets are “a fake organisation that exists only to create propaganda for the jihadists and terrorists”.

In his post, Waters said that what he described as a leaked OPCW report proved that “the White Helmets probably murdered 34 women and children to dress the scene on that sorry day in Douma” and demanded an apology from Guardian journalist Jonathan Freedland, who had previously criticised him for his attacks on the White Helmets. 

Waters was referring to a chemical attack on the city of Douma near Damascus on April 7, 2018 which killed 70 people. Douma was held by Syrian opposition forces at the time.

The United States, the European Union, and humanitarian workers present at the scene accused the Assad regime of responsibility for the attack and a UN Commission of Enquiry on Syria found that a cylinder filled with chlorine gas had been dropped from a helicopter on Douma.

The Assad regime and its Russian ally are the only parties in the Syrian conflict which possess helicopters.

The “engineers report” that Waters was referring to was written by Ian Henderson, who had said – without naming the White Helmets - that cylinders placed manually in Douma were “the only plausible explanation” for the presence of deadly chemicals.  

This report, which was “leaked” on May 16, has been doing the rounds on pro-Assad regime social media, as “authentic evidence” that either the rebels or the White Helmets had carried out the chemical attack.

However, while Henderson had previously worked with the OPCW, he was neither a member of the organisation’s fact-finding mission to Douma nor currently an employee of the organisation.

The OPCW, whose mission does not include assigning responsibility for attacks, has not in fact retracted its March 2019 conclusion that the deadly attack in Douma was caused by “a toxic chemical used as a weapon”.

Along with Roger Waters, actress Susan Sarandon had also publicised the report on Twitter. Their words were greeted with outrage by Syrians and their supporters.

In contrast to his attacks on the first responders who save victims of airstrikes in Syria, Roger Waters has been an outspoken critic of Israel for its attacks on Palestinians, calling on fellow pop stars to “focus on their capacity to empathise with their Palestinian brothers and sisters” and boycott Eurovision.

Founded to help victims of regime airstrikes, the White Helmets are themselves deliberately and frequently targeted by the Syrian regime and its ally Russia, who also attack hospitals and medical facilities in opposition-held areas of Syria.

A 2017 investigation by The Guardian also found that the White Helmets were the subject of a widespread media misinformation campaign by the Russian government to portray them as Al-Qaeda linked terrorists.

Over half a million people have been killed in the Syrian conflict, which broke out after the brutal suppression of anti-Assad protests in 2011.

Most of the casualties have been caused by regime bombardment of civilian areas.

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