January 16, 2017
By Jacqueline Souza
Nearly six years after the Arab Spring uprisings in Syria, the northwestern city of Aleppo and the well-being of its many citizens have never been more at risk. The Syrian Civil War is a multi-faceted, ethical dilemma- many groups oppose the totalitarian regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, including the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and Islamic State (ISIS). However, their violent methods have been highly criticized by Syrians and outsiders alike, and the vast amount of U.S. and international media coverage on the war makes the Syrian conflict even more perplexing. Despite the complicated disputes between Assad and his opposition, one group in particular has emerged as an unwavering ally to civilians living in the chaos.
The White Helmets are a grassroots volunteer organization almost entirely composed of Syrian civilians, all of whom are identifiable by the white hard hats which they wear. Jared Malsin of TIME Magazine describes these volunteers as those who are “retaking ownership of a conflict that has cast them as victims.” The White Helmets are predominantly visible in the horrific aftermath of government-led airstrikes, where Syrian civilians are often trapped beneath rubble and debris. The White Helmets are often the first-responders on the scene working with victims, as the volunteers are trained to provide first-aid and other emergency medical care.
Over the past few years, the White Helmets have saved nearly eighty thousand civilian lives. When they are not responding to the immediate effects of airstrikes, they engage in public service. As described on the organization’s website, these volunteers also provide safety information and education to civilians, and even secure public buildings for civilian use.
To learn more about Syria’s White Helmets, check out their official website here. One hundred percent of donations go directly to the nonprofit organization- see the supplies being purchased with donated funds here.
Jacqueline Souza is an intern for New People and also studies sociology and journalism at the University of Pittsburgh. She is interested in racial justice, social movements, and U.S. politics.