The White Helmets, a voluntary group of rescue workers in war-torn Syria appeal to the international community to mobilize political support to enforce a no-fly zone in the country
By Team FI
Even as Aylan Kadri’s tragic death reverberates around the world drawing attention to the millions of refugees fleeing Syria, there are six children that die every day in that country as war rages on.
Calling for the UN Security Council to stop the bombs Raed Saleh, head of the White Helmets, the Syrian Civil Defence call for action in their website stating, “”Barrel bombs – sometimes filled with chlorine – are the biggest killer of civilians in Syria today. Our unarmed and neutral rescue workers have saved more than 22,693 people from the attacks in Syria, but there are many we cannot reach. There are children trapped in rubble we cannot hear. For them, the UN Security Council must follow through on its demand made last year to stop the barrel bombs, by introducing a ‘no-fly zone’ if necessary.”
The White Helmets consisting of ordinary Syrians are the largest civil society organisation who risk their lives on a daily basis helping the victims of the ongoing war in Syria. As per the White Helmet sources, “More than 50 bombs and mortars a day land on some neighbourhoods in Syria. Many are rusty barrels filled with nails and explosives, rolled out the back of government helicopters — bakeries and markets are the most commonly hit targets. When this happens The White Helmets rush in to search for life in the rubble – fully aware that more bombs may fall on them.” So far 92 volunteers have been killed.
As per the website, the White Helmets also “deliver public services to nearly 7 million people, including reconnecting electrical cables, providing safety information to children and securing buildings.” Last year, the organisation set up two women teams consisting of 56 women who are trained in medical care and light search and rescue work. “They respond to barrel bomb and missile strikes and dig for survivors using tools and their bare hands.”
The organisation has appealed to the people of the world to help their case.
Here is the full text of the appeal;
As the White Helmets work to rescue as many people as they can, it is our job to speak up and pressure leaders into action on stopping the bombs. It’s our own leaders who we need to shift – so we have a powerful role to play. Here are some things we can do together right now.
2. Meet your local representative – or the most powerful decision-maker you know.
If they don’t hear about this from you, who’s going to tell them? If you can’t meet them, send them a letter. Your objective is to introduce them to the White Helmets and convince them that they must do everything in their power to convince their colleagues and superiors to stop the bombs in Syria – with a no-fly zone if necessary. Here are some talking points you can use.
• More than 220,000 Syrians have been killed since 2011 and over 10 million have had to flee their homes.
• One of the the biggest killer of civilians in Syria today is the barrel bomb. Since 2012, it has killed more than 12,000 people – 96% of them civilians. In just four months at the beginning of 2014, one million people fled Aleppo because of the barrel bombs. These bombs are not only killing people, they’re causing huge refugee movements and make it almost impossible to have functioning local infrastructure. It’s into that vacuum that extremism spreads.
• The White Helmets are Syria’s first responders. They are unarmed and neutral search and rescue workers and firefighters. These volunteers have saved over 12,500 lives in Syria and counting – and 84 have been killed trying to do so.
• The White Helmets have documented dozens of chemical attacks since the UN Security Council passed Resolution 2209 in March this year promising action should there be any chemical attacks.
• Inspectors have recently found traces of sarin and XV nerve agent at a military research facility in Syria, despite the government’s claims that all of its chemical weapons were destroyed.
• The White Helmets are worried that these chemicals may be used to mount another large-scale attack like the sarin gas chemical attack in Ghouta in August 2013 that killed over 1,000 civilians. They are worried that inaction on these smaller chemical attacks might pave the way to just that.
• More than one year ago, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 2139, banning the use of indiscriminate weapons in populated areas – and mentioning barrel bombs specifically. But hundreds of barrel bombs have fallen since. Around 2,000 children have died in barrel bomb attacks since the Council passed its resolution.
• The White Helmets are calling on the United Nations Security Council to enforce its own resolutions – with a no-fly zone if necessary.
• Raed Fares, head of the White Helmets, said: “Our unarmed and neutral rescue workers have saved more than 12,000 people from the attacks in Syria, but there are many we cannot reach. There are children trapped in rubble we cannot hear. For them, the UN Security Council must follow through on its demand made a year ago to stop the barrel bombs by introducing a ‘no-fly zone’ if necessary.”
The White Helmets have given hope back to their communities. Despite losing loved ones, they put on their uniforms to go out and save lives day after day in service of their country and of humanity. They do it even when they know another bomb could fall within moments. Thank you for standing with these heroes on the side of life. Let’s make sure our leaders hear them too.
The Syria Campaign