Unpaid, Unarmed Lifesavers in Syria


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Mar 22, 2012
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I had never heard of this group, and probably the rest of the viewers haven't either. It was started by a man who was once tortured in a Syrian prison.

Nicholas Kristof: Unpaid, Unarmed Lifesavers in Syria
By Nicholas Kristof
POSTED: 02/17/2015 12:01:00 AM CST | UPDATED: ABOUT 10 HOURS AGO

Who would have thought there could be an uplifting story from Syria?

Yet side by side with the worst of humanity, you often see the best. In Syria, that's a group of volunteers called the White Helmets. Its members rush to each bombing and claw survivors from the rubble.

There are more than 2,200 volunteers in the White Helmets, mostly men but a growing number of women as well. The White Helmets are unpaid and unarmed, and they risk their lives to save others. More than 80 have been killed in the line of duty, the group says, largely because Syrian military aircraft often return for a "double-tap" - dropping bombs on the rescuers.

Wearing simple white construction helmets as feeble protection from those "double-tap" bombings, the White Helmets are strictly humanitarian. They even have rescued some of the officers of the regime of President Bashar Assad who are bombing them.

Every day there are scores of bombings or missile strikes across Syria -- for months, the beautiful ancient city of Aleppo was enduring 50 attacks a day -- and, each time, these are the crews that extinguish the fires and help the injured.

Since the White Helmets began in 2013, its members have saved more than 12,500 lives by its count.

One video taken by the group shows White Helmets frantically pulling aside rubble as a baby wails beneath. Finally, a rescuer is able to reach with his arm deep into a crevice and pull out an infant, crying lustily but not obviously injured.

A reputation for nonpolitical humanitarianism has allowed the White Helmets to work across lines of rival militias, including the Islamic State. In a land short of heroes and long on violence, many rally round the White Helmets. Syria may be notorious today for cruelty and suffering, but these men and women are a reminder of the human capacity for courage, strength and resilience.

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Nicholas Kristof Unpaid Unarmed Lifesavers in Syria - TwinCities.com

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