White Helmets. Photo: Syria Civil Defence

29 Laureates Sign Petition in Support of White Helmets and Ceasefire in Syria

In a petition published in Le Temps (Switzerland) and Svenska Dagbladet (Sweden), 29 Right Livelihood Award Laureates from 21 countries call on all parties to stop targeting the White Helmets and other rescue workers in Syria. They call on the UN Security Council to enforce its resolution 2401 (2018) which demands parties to Syria’s seven-year-long conflict to cease hostilities without delay.

Popularly known as the White Helmets, Syria Civil Defence is a group of more than3,000 volunteers, men and women, from local communities who since 2013 have risked their lives to save tens of thousands of people — regardless of religious or political affiliation — from underneath the rubble of buildings destroyed during the Syrian civil war. Bakers, tailors, salespersons and teachers – are now trained fire-fighters, search and rescue workers, and medics. Their work is guided by the inherent dignity of human life, and they have adopted a motto drawn from a verse in the Quran that states: “to save one life is to save all humanity”.

A lifeline and a rare source of hope for the besieged civilian population, Syria Civil Defence also support the reconstruction of damaged public infrastructure and educate children and adults on preventative safety measures to take during an aerial attack. They have also exposed war crimes, including a chemical attack last April. Their deep commitment to humanitarian action has drawn international attention to the plight of civilians who have become victims of indiscriminate bombing in Syria, and they have been outspoken in calling for an end to the hostilities in the country.

One would have thought that the brave volunteers of the White Helmets would receive all the possible moral and monetary support for saving humanity in Syria. However, the organisation has experienced an almost unprecedented smear campaign claiming that they are terrorists affiliated with al-Qaida. Russia plays a key role in the ongoing propaganda war.

The White Helmets received the Right Livelihood Award, widely known as the ‘Alternative Nobel Prize’ in 2016 “for their outstanding bravery, compassion and humanitarian engagement in rescuing civilians from the destruction of the Syrian civil war.”

We, more than 29 fellow Right Livelihood Award Laureates from 21 countries and 6 continents strongly believe that the allegations against the White Helmets are unsubstantiated, and do not stand up to scrutiny. We express our deep solidarity with the White Helmets, their brave volunteers and the war torn Syrian civil population.

The White Helmets are not only targeted with false allegations, but also with lethal weapons. At the time of writing, the White Helmets have lost 225 volunteers – nine of whom have perished since the start of the year. More than 500 have been severely injured. The numbers are, sadly, probably higher by the time you read this.

We call on all parties to Syria’s seven-year-long conflict to stop targeting the White Helmets and other rescue workers in Syria who are saving lives and providing humanitarian support to the civilian population.

We call on the UN Security Council to enforce its resolution 2401 (2018) which demands parties to Syria’s seven-year-long conflict to cease hostilities without delay, lift the sieges of populated areas, including eastern Ghouta, cease depriving civilians of essential food and medicine, and enable the rapid, safe and unhindered evacuation of all civilians who wish to leave.

We call on all people to stand by the White Helmets and all other courageous people inside Syria who are rescuing lives, saving humanity and trying to restore peace.

Signed by 29 Right Livelihood Award Laureates

Manfred Max-Neef, Chile

Khadija Ismayilova, Azerbaijan

Chico Whitaker, Brazil

Johan Galtung, Norway

András Biró, Hungary

Wes Jackson, USA

John F C Turner, United Kingdom

Hunter Lovins, USA

Tapio Mattlar, Finland

Swami Agnivesh, India

Angie Zelter, United Kingdom

Helen Mack Chang, Guatemala

Vandana Shiva, India

Sima Samaar, Afghanistan

Paul Walker, USA

GRAIN, International

Monika Hauser, Germany

International Baby Food Action Network, Global

Theo van Boven, Netherlands

Raúl Montenegro, Argentina

Sunchul Yun, Secretary General, Citizens’ Coalition for Economic Justice, South Korea

Shrikrishna Upadhyay, Nepal

Alyn Ware, New Zealand

Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera, Uganda

Petra Tötterman Andorff, Acting Secretary General, The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation, Sweden

Bianca Jagger, Nicaragua

Nnimmo Bassey, Nigeria

Juan Pablo Orrego, Chile

Medha Patkar, India

Media contacts

Emoke Bebiak

English, French & International Media

E-mail: emoke.bebiak@rightlivelihood.org
Phone: +41 (0)78 333 84 84

Nayla Azzinnari

Spanish Media

E-mail: nayla@rightlivelihood.org
Phone: +54 9 11 5460 9860

Nina Tesenfitz

German Media

E-mail: presse@rightlivelihood.org
Phone: +49 (0)170 5763 663

Sydney Nelson

Swedish Media

E-mail: sydney.nelson@rightlivelihood.org
Phone: +46 (0)73 043 13 01