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Syria's 'White Helmets' saved over 20,000 lives

The White Helmets are providing services to almost 7 million people across Syria (Getty)

Date of publication: 8 July, 2015

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As war rages on, a group of Syrians are actively restoring faith in humanity and has asked the world for support through a crowdfunding campaign.
The first thing that a witness sees moving after the smoke of the explosion clears off is a white helmet. A group of Syrian volunteers tries to rescue survivors from the rubble.

In areas where government public services are absent, this group has become the only source of life.

Bakers, tailors, engineers, pharmacists, painters, carpenters, students and many more, the White Helmets are Syrian volunteers from all walks of life who couldn't sit and watch people die under the rubbles.

The White Helmets mostly operate in rebel-held areas, while remaining neutral in their rescue efforts. The volunteers save people on all sides of the conflict - pledging commitment to the principles of "humanity, solidarity, impartiality” as outlined by the International Civil Defence Organisation.

The White Helmets mostly deal with the aftermath of government air attacks. Yet they have risked sniper fire to rescue bodies of government soldiers to give them a proper burial. They claim that they have saved over 20,000 lives.

Abed, a student volunteer with the White Helmets said, "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 that might die".

Many have paid the ultimate price for their compassion. By June 2015, 92 volunteers lost their lives while saving others.

Being the largest civil society organisation operating in opposition-held areas (mainly Idlib and Aleppo), the White Helmets also deliver public services to nearly 7 million people, including reconnecting electrical cables, providing safety information to children and securing buildings.


Crowdfunding

On Monday, the White Helmets started a $100,000 crowdfunding project that will help them sustain their expanding services. In four days, they raised over $30,000 from around 570 people.

Head of the White Helmets, Raed al-Saleh, said on their website that the group doesn't have the money to pay for hospital treatment of their own injuries.

"I know if a team member loses their life, we have nothing to give to their family," al-Saleh pleaded.

The regime's barrels of death

According to the White Helmets, more than 50 bombs and mortars a day hit some neighbourhoods in Syria. Many are rusty barrels filled with nails and explosives, rolled out from government helicopters.

The barrels tend to hit markets and bakeries that aren't under government control. Such desperate attacks are intended to disrupt the normalcy of living in rebel-held areas and consequently turn civilians against the opposition. 

The White Helmets have saved countless victims of these attacks but as a consequence their life-saving work is now a target for the regime. In the last month alone, three centres were bombed in three days. As the chemical attacks from the regime increase, the White Helmets are suffering too. As first responders to the scenes of attacks, hundreds have suffered suffocation and respiratory conditions.

The money raised from the crowdfunding project will help Syria's civil heroes persist in saving lives, including their own.

 

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