The White Helmets: a target for Syrian forces
  • 5 years ago
The White Helmets are a Nobel peace-prize nominated volunteer group that have pulled tens of thousands of trapped people from the rubble of bombed buildings in Syria. But now Bashar al-Assad's bombs are targeting them

Click here to subscribe to The Economist on YouTube:

When the bombs rain down the White Helmets rush in to search for life in the rubble. These volunteer rescuers risk their lives to help anyone in need.

before the war, Mr Mawass was about to start a masters degree in energy management at Aleppo University. Operating across rebel held parts of Syria, the White Helmets has grown from a small group of untrained volunteers into a formidable search-and-rescue force.

the work is deadly. Roughly one in six volunteers has been killed or badly wounded.

When Syrian government war planes started bombing civilians in 2012 teams of local residents banded together to dig friends and neighbours out of the rubble with their bare hands. With training funding and support from many organisations including NGO's, charities and foreign governments the group grew to over 3,000 volunteers operating from 120 centres across Syria.

They face a formidable task. Since the start of the conflict six years ago nearly half a million people have lost their lives.

The UN Security Council has passed resolutions banning the use of chlorine and barrel bombs as weapons. But Syrian forces continue to use them.

In 2016 the White Helmets were nominated for the Nobel peace prize. A year later a film about their work won the Oscar for best short documentary. But their success has made them a target for Assad's forces. The White Helmets have been victims of the so called 'double tap', a tactic where one bomb is dropped followed by a second shortly after to target rescuers as they arrive at the scene.

The White Helmets were founded in Aleppo but since the fall of the city at the turn of the year the war has swung in favour of Assad's forces. The bombs keep coming. Recently, jets targeted camps for displaced people in the east outside the city of Deir ez-Zor.

The rescuers say they will help anyone in need regardless of politics. Because of this, Syrian and Russian governments accuse the White Helmets of supporting terrorists by operating in rebel controlled areas.

The White Helmets are calling on the UN Security Council to enforce their resolution and stop the bombs.

Daily Watch: mind-stretching short films throughout the working week.

For more from Economist Films visit:
Check out The Economist’s full video catalogue:
Like The Economist on Facebook:
Follow The Economist on Twitter:
Follow us on Instagram:
Follow us on LINE:
Follow us on Medium: