White Helmets Saviours Of Syria
While most of the superheroes we’ve grown up admiring wear their signature masks and cape, these real-life group of ordinary civilians dons helmets just as a protective gear. Their work, however, is no less than of superheroes. Every time the rebel-held parts in Syria gets bombarded by air strikes, this group rushes to the spots to look for survivors and rescue them from beneath the twisted metal slabs or debris of the buildings destroyed.
As a part of the Syrian Civil Defence, this group of 3,000 ordinary civilians with barely any military training has taken the onus of this extraordinary task of becoming the rescue force. Known as the “White Helmets” for the colour of the helmets they wear, the group has rescued over 60,000 people since 2014, since it began to keep count. They are just ordinary people — teachers, engineers, builders, plumbers, carpenters — who decided not to pick up guns but to go out and save strangers on the front lines of the savage conflict.
The White Helmets were nominated for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. However, they lost it to Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos.
How White Helmets was formed
By the end of 2012, forming an urban search-and-rescue team became a necessity in Syria as the Assad regime was well embarked on its strategy of targeting civilian sites with intense aerial bombardment. After one particular airstrike, an entire neighbourhood took to the streets to save the victims out from the rubbles.
Similar groups of volunteers began to form in Aleppo and then in other parts of the country. It became a full-time service with volunteers getting training from Analysis, Research and Knowledge (ARK) and the Turkish NGO AKUT. Further support came from governments and NGOs in countries such as the US, Britain, and the Netherlands, and the White Helmets were formally organised as Syrian Civil Defense in October 2014.
After 2014, funding started to increase and the group began to receive small equipments like battery-powered hand tools and hand-cranked air raid sirens.
White Helmets centres have been regularly attacked over the past year. In April 2016, one set of missile strikes destroyed a centre west of Aleppo city, killing five volunteers and destroying equipment and vehicles. The “double tap” attacks, hoping to kill and maim the rescuers, are now routine.
It is true that many see in the White Helmets a long-term solution to the country’s destruction; a popular, highly motivated and well-trained civilian force that can be rapidly expanded to rebuild the country once the war ends. But the White Helmets are facing the wrath as Russians and Syrian states are trying to tarnish their reputation by calling them allies of terrorism dedicated only to the assistance of jihadists.
Those who view the Syrian war as a conspiracy of America, considers White Helmets as puppets of the US government. President Assad once said, “They (White Helmets) use different humanitarian masks and umbrellas just to implement certain agendas.”
The Logical Indian community salutes the White Helmets for their dedicated work on humanitarian grounds.