BEIRUT – A Syrian volunteer group that rescue civilians during raids is being nominated for Nobel Peace prize by renowned figures around the world, including politicians, civil rights groups and even Hollywood stars, praising its efforts in saving thousands of civilians.
“We have to work fast these days and rush the wounded people to the nearest medical point,” Ibrahim al-Hajj, the head of the White Helmets’ media unit, told DPA on Tuesday, October 4.
Al-Hajj, a father of a 10-month-old baby, is one of the group’s 3 000 members who have devoted themselves to assisting besieged people in eastern Aleppo.
At least three of the group’s four operation centers were damaged by air strikes in a single night last week, the 26-year-old volunteer said.
“We lost ambulances and fire engine in one day,” he said.
White Helmets, a Syrian volunteer group, is dubbed the saviors of civilians living in opposition-held parts of Aleppo that are besieged by government forces.
The group riveted the world’s attention with its efforts in Syria’s war zones, where 145 of its members have died.
Earlier this month, the White Helmets won the Right Livelihood Award, also known as the “Alternative Noble Prize”.
The Syrian group hailed the win as a “glimmer of hope in these dark days”.
Hollywood stars, including actors George Clooney, Daniel Day Lewis, and Vanessa Redgrave, have voiced support for giving the Nobel Peace Prize to the White Helmets.
The award will be handed out at a ceremony in Oslo on Friday.
The White Helmets were founded in 2013 to help the Syrian areas that lack emergency services.
Working mainly in rebel areas, the group claims they have since rescued 60 000 people across Syria.
Al-Hajj was a university student when the uprising against al-Assad erupted in March 2011.
Al-Hajj accompanies rescuers in the aftermath of air strikes in order to document what he sees and help in rescue operations.
“The toughest part of our job is when we go to neighbourhoods where we live and find parts of them reduced to rubble. There, the first thing that comes to your mind is that the victims may be your parents or other members of your family,” he said.
“I experienced this feeling last week when the building where my parents live was hit by an air strike. I went there and saved my mother, father, and brother from the rubble,” Al-Hajj added.
Eastern Aleppo, home to 300 000, has been under siege since July. Residents there are suffering from shortages of supplies, including food and medicines, according to aid groups.
“Sometimes when I see my baby shivering from the sound of the falling shells, I wonder if I’ve made a mistake by bringing my family in to live under these circumstances in order to help others,” said Al-Hajj.