It’s official – the White Helmets have not been awarded the Nobel Peace prize for 2016; the prize instead went to Colombian president, Juan Manuel Santos for his role in trying to bring peace to his country.
The Nobel committee’s decisions are not always without controversy and I have a feeling this year’s decision might be talked about for some time yet, particularly given that Colombians voted against the proposed peace plan by referendum last week. President Santos called off the ceasefire with FARC rebels two days ago, as a consequence of the referendum results. While they may not have won the Nobel prize, they have certainly won tens of millions of hearts worldwide with their heroism.
Here are some of the reasons we feel the White Helmets should have won:
1.It’s estimated that they’ve saved over 62,000 lives.
2. More than 140 of their volunteers have been martyred, yet they still carry on with their work.
3. In a conflict that’s brought out the worst in people, they serve as a beautiful reminder of what the best in us can do.
4. Despite being bombarded by Syrian and Russian air-forces, in areas where there is no anti-aircraft defenses to protect them, they still carry on with their work.
5. They operate in some of the most bombarded areas of Syria, where there are no significant medical facilities present, so they are the only hope of medical attention to many.
6. Their winning of the prize would have been the loudest reply the international community could give to those who have the audacity to try and smear the Helmets, first responders who are well and truly up against it, as “terrorists”.
7. They are maliciously targeted in double-tap strikes, strikes that are deployed to target first responders like them, yet they still carry on with their work.
8. Beloved British MP and friend of the Syrian people, the late Jo Cox, who was murdered in June, campaigned for the Helmets to receive the prize in her last days.
9. Their now famous slogan, “To save a life, is to save all of humanity”, based on a Quranic verse, remind us that every life is precious, and every life saved is a huge victory, something that is all too often forgotten in the overwhelming numbers of this conflict.
10. They remind us that after this darkest of nights, hope remains in the ashes for Syria.
11. They were “ordinary” people; teachers, engineers, builders and taxi drivers, who answered the call to do this extraordinary work
12. The conflict in Syria, and the confusion surrounding it, has led to many different actors being seen as differing shades of grey; the White Helmets are one side seen by millions as being a pure white.
13. They are volunteers who are given a monthly stipend of a mere $150.
14. Their operating centers throughout Syria are systematically targeted by Assad and Putin, many have been blown to smithereens, yet they still carry on with their work.
15. Given the sheer scale of the conflict, it would have been more than understandable if the individuals who make up the Helmets chose to leave. But they chose, and continue to choose, to stay and help.
— Mahmoud Al Basha (@mahmoud_basha8) October 7, 2016