Co-founder of Syrian 'White Helmets,' James Le Mesurier, found dead in Turkey
November 12, 2019 | 3:37 PM
by DW

The founder of an organization that launched the Syrian White Helmets has been found dead near his home in Istanbul.

James Le Mesurier's body was found on Monday in the central Beyoglu district of the city.

Turkish authorities have yet to confirm how he died, but state-run Anadolu news agency is reporting that he may have fallen to his death. The Istanbul governor's office said "comprehensive administrative and judicial investigations" had been initiated into Le Mesurier's death.

The White Helmets confirmed his death on its Facebook page as well as tweeting its condolences to his family.

His death follows just days after the Russian Foreign Ministry in a series of tweets on November 8 wrote that Le Mesurier had "connections to terrorist groups." Moscow said that the Syrian Civil Defense, the formal name for the White Helmets, assisted the "most dangerous terrorist groups" in Syria.

Who was James Le Mesurier?

James Le Mesurier was a former British army officer. He was founder of the not-for-profit Mayday Rescue group which, according to its website, "builds emergency response capacity in communities at risk of conflict and natural disaster."

The group began operations in 2014, and opened its Istanbul office in 2015 to support its most well-known rescue project, the Syrian White Helmets.

Le Mesurier has received personal awards in the UK for his work with the White Helmets, a former failed nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize and winner of the Alternative Nobel Peace Prize.

Besides Syria, Mayday Rescue also organized emergency response teams in Somalia and Lebanon.

White Helmets: Neutral rescuers or spreaders of propaganda?

The volunteers working as part of the White Helmets are acknowledged to have saved thousands of lives during the eight-year Syrian civil war and the group maintains that it is neutral, because it provides assistance to both sides in the conflict.

However, the Syrian and Russian governments have long viewed the group as promoting Western propaganda and supporting anti-Assad insurgents.

Its first responders often risk death from "double tap" bombing raids by Syrian government forces, who launch secondary bombing attacks on the volunteers once they head into bombed buildings to search for survivors in the rubble.

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