The leader of “the White Helmets”; an aid group that assists civilian victims of the Assad regime and Russian bombardment was awarded on Friday “the Alternative Nobel prize.”
“Our greatest contribution has not been to save 73,000 lives but to bring hope where previously there was none,” said Raed Saleh, head of the White Helmets on accepting the Right Livelihood Award in the Swedish capital Stockholm.
Saleh recounted how the volunteers began operating in March 2013 when the Assad regime was targeting civilians in the city of Aleppo with airstrikes and barrel bombs.
“The localized effect of a barrel bomb is the same as an earthquake measuring 8 on the Richter scale,” he said.
The volunteers – including carpenters, electricians and bakers – now number 3,000 and have pledged to “save lives regardless of political, religious or sectarian affiliation,” Saleh said.
But their efforts have taken a toll. “148 of our volunteers have been killed and over 450 have been seriously injured” in direct airstrikes on civil defense centers,” Saleh said, adding that the award also recognized “all the Syrian civilians that daily face indiscriminate bomb attacks and that live in fear.”
The White Helmets group operates in areas of Syria which lack emergency services to help rescue people from bombings and airstrikes.
The founder of the Right Livelihood Award, Jakob von Uexkull, said the winners were “not afraid to speak truth to power.”
The award, which was given to three other individuals along with the White Helmets, was set up in 1980 to honor individuals and organizations “offering visionary and exemplary solutions to the root causes of global problems.” (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Office + Agencies)