The Syrian Civil Defense, also known as the White Helmets won the 2016 Tipperary International Peace Prize in recognition of the efforts the volunteer group are making to save civilians and help local communities in Syria.
The prestigious prize was accepted Wednesday afternoon by Nedal Ezzedine on behalf of the Syrian Civil Defense at an awards ceremony at Ballykisteen Hotel outside Tipperary Town, Ireland.
The Tipperary Peace prize ranks as Ireland’s outstanding award for humanitarian work. The award scheme was founded in 1984 and has been given to some of the world’s leading politicians, civil rights campaigners and charity workers.
Accepting the award Ezzedine said was humbled and honored to accept the award on behalf of the White Helmets and his colleagues two hundred of whom had lost their lives trying to save others during the ongoing war.
“This award will help us save more lives and enhance our efforts to make peace.”
“For the Syrian Civil Defense, winning the prize means that there are still people around the world who support our mission to protect lives and that the voice of peace is much stronger than the voice of guns and war,” Ezzedine added.
Ezzedine went on: “Today I carry the wishes and hopes of our volunteers that we will no longer have to rescue anyone from under the roof of his house demolished by bombing by an airplane or artillery. Today we nourish hope that we will no longer have to recover the body of a child who was sleeping in his mother’s lap before a criminal shelled his house, or to console a young man or woman who cling to the hand of their rescuer and pleading with him not to leave her having lost their feet as result of a fragment of an artillery shell.”
“For us, peace is a smile of a child, the joy of a woman, and the tears of an old man who was exhausted by the war,” Ezzedine said.
“Peace for us is the 204 colleagues who sacrificed their lives to give life to 20 million Syrians with the hope that no one around the world is killed in any political, religious, sectarian or ethnic conflict.”
Ezzedine concluded his remarks by saying: “We hope that we will no longer have to remove the rubble from over the victims, but to remove it to contribute to the reconstruction of our cities and villages that have been destroyed over the past four years.”
In the prize citation, the organizing committee said: “The award is a testament to the enormous bravery and courage shown by the White Helmets who have saved more than 100,000 people, while upwards on 200 of the unarmed volunteers have lost their lives while saving others.”
The Syrian Civil Defense is a non-partisan volunteer group whose members work in the liberated areas to help victims of the bombardment by the Assad regime and its allies as well as to document the victims. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department + Agencies)