Open Letter from Christian Peacemaker Teams to the White Helmets


Photo that the White Helmets have circulated on Facebook and Twitter about their work in Afrin


Note:  Christian Peacemaker Teams sent this letter on 22 September 2018 and has received no response. This week, news broke that Turkish forces were operating a human trafficking ring in Afrin, preying on local women and girls. They have since withdrawn forty personnel belonging to the army, police and intelligence services. Please participate in the Twitter action below.


Dear members of the Syrian Civil Defence AKA “White Helmets”

Last year, both you and our organization, Christian Peacemaker Teams were nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.  We respect your courage and the work you have done.  We understand why you have been an inspiration for so many, including members of our organization and our supporters, and we know you have suffered grievous losses in your country’s war.

On your webpage, you cite the following as your vision: 

We hope and pray for the cessation of bombing and fighting which target civilians and for peace and stability. We pledge that once fighting ends, we commit the Syria Civil Defence organisation to embark on the generational task of rebuilding Syria into a stable, prosperous and peace-loving nation in which the social, economic and political aspirations of her people can be realised.

We are a U.S.-based organization, with workers from Latin America, North America, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. We work with people displaced by war and violence in Iraqi Kurdistan, Palestine, Colombia, on the Greek island of Lesvos, and in North American Indigenous communities. Because of our mutual human rights and life-affirming work, we are dismayed to learn that you are working with the Turkish invading forces and their Free Syrian Army mercenaries in the Syrian region of Afrin.

White Helmets resume operations in liberated Afrin

White Helmets return to Afrin to mixed reception

Before the Turkish invasion, Afrin was a region where Kurds, Arabs, Yazidis, Armenians and other minorities lived together peacefully.  Women were safe and held leadership positions in the government.   Now, more than 100,000 people have been violently displaced from their homes and prevented from returning. The authorities running Afrin are forbidding the use of the Kurdish language and sanctioning the kidnapping of women, forcing them to cover their faces and forcing Yazidis to convert to Islam.  Widespread looting runs rampant.

Syria: Turkey must stop serious violations by allied groups and its own forces in Afrin

Culture clash: Campaign in Syria’s Afrin tells women to cover up

Yazidis who suffered under Isis face forced conversion to Islam amid fresh persecution in Afrin

Killings and Kidnappings of Civilians Continue in Afrin Amidst International Silence

We don’t understand how you as an organization that says you desire Syria to be “stable, prosperous and peace loving nation in which the social, economic and political aspirations of her people can be realised” can be collaborating with Turkey and the Free Syrian Army who have committed so many human rights violations and war crimes. We don’t understand how you, who have seen the results of Bashar Assad’s bombings of civilians, can support a government that bombs civilians both in Syria and in Northern Iraq where we work.

So we are imploring you to live up to your noble ideals—the ideals for which you received the Nobel nomination—and use your local and international influence to call for the following:

  • The Turkish military and the FSA should withdraw from Afrin
  • All the people displaced by the Turkish and FSA  should be allowed to return home and receive compensations for the damages done to their homes and region
  • Refugees from Ghouta and other regions of Syria should not be used as pawns to facilitate the ethnic cleansing and displacement of Kurds and other minorities in Afrin
  • Turkey should immediately stop all bombing raids against the civilian population in the Qandil region of Iraqi Kurdistan where we work and withdraw its military bases. We are attaching a photo of a bombing in a village where we have worked for many years.

We know you have suffered much in your work and lost people you loved in Bashar Assad’s bombings.  We know that you do not want to be a part of Erdogan’s plan to inflict this pain on the shepherds and farmers of Qandil.

Brothers and sisters, you have an opportunity here to prove that you truly stand for the human rights of all civilians in the region.  Please speak out. 

We hope to hear from you through our Administrative Director, Jonathan Shively,

May peace prevail in this region and the rest of the world!

Sincerely, Christian Peacemaker Teams



Christian Peacemaker Teams would like you to tweet @GrainMedia, the production company that produced the Oscar winning film about the White Helmets.  The point of the action is to shine a light on Turkey’s brutal military occupation of Afrin, and its military expansionism in the region, which includes its bombing of our partners in Iraqi Kurdistan. (See this Facebook post.)  Grain Media and director Otto von Einsiedel was responsible, in part, for cultivating the image of the White Helmets.  We are not asking them to destroy that image.  We are asking them to investigate, because they have a relationship with the White Helmets, who are obviously witnessing what Turkey and its Syrian mercenaries are doing in Afrin and who are collaborating with the Turkish occupation.   Since the world is largely ignoring Turkish war crimes in Afrin and Iraqi Kurdistan, we are hoping this action will open a window.

Below are some sample tweets.  Feel free to adapt them, or create your own.

.@GrainMedia  The #WhiteHelmets, who heroically rescued people from bombed buildings are now collaborating with the brutal Turkish/FSA military occupation of #Afrin.  You have contacts. Can you ask them why?

.@Grainmedia Here is a map of Turkey’s plans for the region.  You can see it includes plans to annex the Kurdish regions of Syria and Iraq. Why are the #WhiteHelmets collaborating with the Turkish military occupation of #Afrin in Syria?

.@Grainmedia Yazidis have been through hell.  They found safety in #Afrin.  Under the Turkish military occupation of Afrin, they are facing the traumas they experienced under ISIS.  Why are the #WhiteHelmets collaborating with Turkey? #Kurdistan #Ezidi

Here are eyewitness accounts of what is happening in #Afrin by Arab and #Kurdishcivilians who are there, @GrainMedia.  The #WhiteHelmets are witnessing these atrocities as well. Please contact them for their stories.

This year, the Nobel prize recognized the traumas sexual violence inflicts on people/communities in wartime. The Turkish military and its FSA allies are inflicting these traumas on the people of #Afrin.  Why not ask the #WhiteHelmets about that, @GrainMedia?

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