Boom! A barrel bomb has hit Syria again. Who is there to help innocent people? No one but the White Helmets. The White Helmets are an organization that helps civilians survive the deadly war in Syria. They go into fires, pull people out from under collapsed buildings and do many more heroic things. They have saved more than 78,529 lives during Syria’s war. The 3,000 volunteers are just like you and me. They are usually the first to respond to people hurt by the bombing in the war. Let’s look more into who these heroic people are and what they stand for.
The White Helmets were first established in 2013, two years after the war started. They have made a huge difference in the lives of many Syrians. The group’s charter is, “ to carry out search-and-rescue operations to save the maximum number of lives.” You might be wondering how these volunteers learned all of their skills. There is a Turkish organization called Akut, that became well known after an earthquake in Turkey. It specializes in rescue. The White Helmets decided to consult with Akut because after barrel bombs hit the streets of Syria, the effects are a lot like an earthquake. In 2013, The UN Security Council made a promise that said if barrel bombs or other indiscriminate weapons were used against civilians, the U.N. would take action against the violators. Yet, everyday barrel bombs are being dropped out of helicopters into Syria. The White Helmets also want the U.N. to stop the Syrian government from using chlorine gas as a weapon. So far no action has been taken by the U.N. The White Helmets won’t sit back and watch weapons destroy Syria’s cities. Today they deal mostly with the effects of government air attacks, but they have gone into fires to find the bodies of government soldiers so they can have a proper burial.
The White Helmets have received lots of praise from people all over the world. They have earned the “Right to Livelihood” Award. Their bravery also put them in line for the Nobel Peace Prize. Recently, there was a Netflix documentary based on their life-saving work. The documentary won an Oscar this year for Best Short
Documentary. In everyday life they are known for their “outstanding bravery, compassion, and humanitarian engagement in rescuing civilians.” The White Helmets have gained a lot of praise from young people and from many high profile figures. They heard criticism from President Bashar al- Assad’s government and from Assad himself. Assad was once asked if he thought that the White Helmets deserved a Nobel Peace Prize. He responded by saying, “What did they achieve in Syria?” Assad is not happy that the White Helmets have received millions of dollars in support from the governments of nations that want Assad to resign.
Despite all of their publicity it is important to remember the volunteers. They risk their lives everyday for people they don’t even know! All of them decided not to to pick up a weapon or to flee Syria, but to save innocent people instead. The White Helmets make us all remember the innocent when most of the countries attention is on ISIS and other political issues. Because the war in Syria has gone on for so long it is hard to feel hopeful, but these volunteers bring hope to many. Volunteers come from everywhere and from very different situations. Some are students, some are professionals and some are ordinary citizens. The White Helmets help anyone in need, no matter their religion or their political stand. Public service no longer exists in Syria so the White Helmets are basically the only ones there to help. There are two women’s teams that are trained in medical care and light search and rescue work. They also respond to barrel bombs, missile strikes and dig for survivors with tools or their bare hands. In some conservative communities people have refused to have men rescue women and girls. So women volunteers go and rescue these people that would have died if they weren’t there.
As you can see the White Helmets are changing the world right in front of our eyes! “When I want to save someone’s life I don’t care if he’s an enemy or a friend. What concerns me is the soul might die.” Abed, The White Helmets.