Recipient of the Middle East Institute's Visionary Award at MEI's 70th Annual Banquet and Conference.
The Syrian Civil Defense, also known as ‘the White Helmets’ for their signature protective hard-hats, is a community-based humanitarian organization in Syria. The group, comprised of 2,900 volunteers operating in 119 communities, conducts its operations without regard for the political affiliations of those it works to save. Because volunteers are drawn from the areas they serve, volunteers are highly motivated and trusted by their communities. The White Helmets have saved 54,000 lives since the group’s founding.
The mission of the White Helmets is “to save the greatest number of lives in the shortest amount of time and to minimize further injury to people and damage to property.” In furtherance of this mission, volunteers with the White Helmets warn and educate their communities about risks, particularly those having to do with airstrikes; plan and conduct evacuations; conduct search and rescue operations following attacks; provide emergency medical and fire-fighting services; deliver essential services; repair utilities; recover corpses for burial; clear unexploded explosive devices; and decontaminate areas affected by chemical weapons.
The group aims for “a cessation of bombing and fighting by all sides and for peace and stability in Syria.” Following an end to the conflict, the group hopes to join or form a National Reconstruction and Recovery Corps.