After a successful evacuation process, hundreds of White Helmets volunteers remain in Syria under growing danger
Human Rights, Peace, Democracy and Law, 27/07/2018
The Right Livelihood Award Foundation welcomes the confirmation of the successful evacuation of volunteers of the Syria Civil Defence, popularly known as the White Helmets, and their families from their homes in southern Syria.
“We commend the diplomatic efforts that allowed for this operation to happen and we urge the governments to now implement their commitments, and resettle the 98 men and women and their 324 family members promptly and safely”, said Ole von Uexküll, director of the Right Livelihood Award Foundation.”
Yet, the Right Livelihood Award Foundation remains extremely concerned about the lives and wellbeing of the White Helmets volunteers who are still in southwest Syria and, who are being systematically targeted for their work in documenting the conflict and providing humanitarian aid for the civilian population.
“We ask to protect our volunteers and all the humanitarian workers, especially those who are still trapped in closed areas, and to give them a choice to go to places where they feel safer.” Urged Raed Al Saleh, Chairman of the White Helmets.
Since the Syrian government’s offensive was intensified in the southwest region, backed by the Russian air force in June, four volunteers were killed and dozens were injured. The latest numbers sadly add to the 251 volunteers’ lives that have been lost in the line of duty, since the start of White Helmets’ activities in 2013.
“As Syrians who love our country, it breaks our hearts to be forced to leave it, but it was the only alternative for our trapped volunteers who would otherwise have faced detention or death at the hands of the Syrian regime and its ally Russia” said the statement released by the organisation on the 23rd of July.
The White Helmets’ unwavering commitment to humanitarian action has drawn international attention to the plight of civilians who have become victims of indiscriminate bombing in Syria. They have been outspoken in calling for an end to the hostilities in the country, and by recording their work through first-hand video footages, they have exposed evidence of war crimes, including a chemical attack in April 2017.
Especially due to the crucial role they play in documenting the Syrian conflict, the White Helmets have been subjected to a systematic smear campaign. They are repeatedly discredited as terrorists affiliated with al-Qaida by the Russian government and the Syrian regime, and they have been falsely accused of operating under Western agendas.
“We have to work together to stop the disinformation campaign which aims to discredit the work of the White Helmets”, said Raed Al Saleh.
Once again, the Right Livelihood Award Foundation strongly condemns these fabricated and malicious allegations which only serve to discredit the nature and importance of the White Helmets’ work.
We call on the international community to help evacuate the volunteers who are still trapped in the South-western border of Syria and facing growing danger of execution by the Syrian regime.
We urge all parties of the conflict to cease hostilities and to ensure the protection of civilians and civilian infrastructure, as set forth by international humanitarian law.
We stand by the White Helmets and reiterate our deepest support to the crucial work undertaken by their brave volunteers in the midst of this conflict.
About the White Helmets:
The Syria Civil Defence is a group of men and women, from local communities who risk their lives to save people – regardless of religious or political affiliation – from underneath the rubble of buildings destroyed during the Syrian civil war. Bakers, tailors, salespersons, teachers became trained fire-fighters, search and rescue workers, and medics.
In 2016, the Syria Civil Defence received the Right Livelihood Award, widely known as the ‘Alternative Nobel Prize’, “for their outstanding bravery, compassion and humanitarian engagement in rescuing civilians from the destruction of the Syrian civil war”.
In March 2018, 29 Right Livelihood Laureates from 21 countries signed a petition calling on all parties to stop targeting the White Helmets and other rescue workers in Syria.
As of July, 2018, 3750 White Helmets remain working on the ground to address the vilest consequences of the conflict in Syria.
For more information, please contact:
Protection and Advocacy Manager