Life and death goes on for Oscar-winning White Helmets

Award-winning documentary follows the White Helmets who travelled to Turkey to be trained.

Saving lives. Syrian Civil Defence volunteers known as the White Helmets evacuate a child in the rebel-held eastern Ghouta area


2017/03/05 Issue: 96 Page: 1


The Arab Weekly
Mamoon Alabbasi



London - While an Academy Award was being awarded to a Netflix documentary about the Syrian Civil De­fence outfit known as the White Helmets, many of the group’s vol­unteers were carrying on saving lives.

Two days after the Oscar cer­emonies in Los Angeles, one of the organisation’s volunteers, Mu­hammad Dabdoub, was reportedly killed by government artillery fire in the Syrian city of Homs while he was performing out his duties.

The White Helmets said 164 of its estimated 3,300 rescuers have been killed since the search-and-rescue group was formed in 2013. During the same period, the or­ganisation said it had saved 82,000 lives across the 120 centres in rebel-held territory in which it operates.

The 40-minute, award-winning documentary follows the White Helmets who travelled to Turkey to be trained at firefighting, rescuing civilians from rubble and providing emergency medical assistance.

The film shows rescuers during moments of heroism as they face the possibility of death or injury during double-tap attacks in which a bombed site is hit again once peo­ple return to it. The movie depicts the volunteers’ moments of vul­nerability when they are in Turkey seeking news about the well-being of loved ones back home in Syria.

Fardous Bahbouh, a British-based Syrian journalist who trans­lated the raw footage for the docu­mentary, said the film shows “the real spirit and hope of Syrians”, who “are truly inspirational”.

“It is a great award to highlight the work of the real Syrian heroes as they save lives under barrel bombs and indiscriminate attacks by the Syrian regime and Russians planes on civilians at homes, hos­pitals, schools and markets,” she said.

Supporters of Syrian President Bashar Assad accuse the White Hel­mets of being made up of al-Qaeda members and of spreading fake news, a charge the rescuers dismiss as pro-regime propaganda.

Bahbouh doesn’t mince words when it comes to the prime respon­sibility for Syria’s civil war.

“It is a tragic reality that the As­sad regime is determined to burn the whole country just to stay in power after Syrians demanded a democratic change to regain their rights, freedom and dignity,” she said.


Mamoon Alabbasi is an Arab Weekly contributing editor based in London. You can follow him on Twitter @MamoonAlabbasi


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