Day: August 25, 2016


This is an extraordinary question. Heather McGhee has a good answer:

Hers would be good advice in many countries, across many social divides, not just in the US between whites and blacks.

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White Helmets merit the Nobel Prize

White Helmets

As one of what I trust were many people who wrote ‎a Nobel Prize nomination for the White Helmets, I’m interested in seeing as many people as possible sign the petition Marieke Bosman of the Asfari Foundation circulated in an email I received this morning. She wrote: 

Help us tell a different story about Syria – one of peace and hope: the story of the White Helmets, Syria’s humble heroes. Please support their nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize

I hope this finds you well.

As you may know, some years ago the Asfari Foundation played a crucial role in setting up the Syria Campaign. This social media campaign was set up to show the world that Syria isn’t a bipolar nightmare of radical extremists and violent government forces. It was to show what those who know Syria well are so aware of: that the majority of ordinary Syrian citizens want a different, peaceful and democratic future for their country. We wassnted to show the lives of these ordinary people, and, in particular, the brave efforts of civil society organisations, courageous Syrians who, at risk of their own lives, provide education, food, shelter, medical care, and search and rescue for fellow citizens as the conflict rages on.

One such organisation is the White Helmets. Also known as the Civil Defence, it consist of young men and women all over Syria who work day and night to rescue people from the terrible bombardments of the Asad regime and Russia. They are in their twenties and thirties, and have left jobs and educations to save the lives of others, pulling from the rubble many people who have died, so they can be buried; Syrians young and old with horrendous injuries, so they can be treated by the equally heroic medical workers; and occasionally those with only minor physical injuries, such as little Omar Daqleesh, whose picture was shown worldwide last weekend, sitting dazed and shocked in a White Helmets ambulance.

For a detailed overview of who they are and what they do, I suggest you read this Washington Post article or watch this very moving PBS news item.

The White Helmets have saved over 58,000 lives, and yet they are entirely level-headed and modest about their work. When we recently met a group of them in Turkey, they talked about their immense bravery in simple, calm, straightforward terms, as if it is the most normal thing to spend your days going out to pull body parts and people in agony from buildings that may fall on you any moment while planes carrying bombs return again and again.  When I asked one 19 year old – the puppy fat still on his cheeks – how he kept going, he admitted there had been a time when he could not take it anymore; ‘but then I went out that day for one last rescue, and we saved a little girl. I have been working ever since.’ I am constantly and deeply humbled by what the White Helmets do with such modesty. Make no mistake: they are constantly at risk. Only a few weeks ago, Khaled, who features in the PBS news item, was killed when rescuing people. 135 White Helmets have lost their lives in the line of duty to date.

The White Helmets have been supported by the Asfari Foundation and many other organisations. Both the UK and the US government have given them millions in support so they can continue to do their vital work. They have been to the US and many other capitals, and spoke at the UN and the London donor conference for Syria last November. They met John Kerry, and Obama has seen the video above. They have won an award for bravery. A documentary has been made about them by an Oscar winning film maker, which will be distributed on Netflix. And in a very touching moment, they have also met their counterparts in New York, the 9/11 firefighters.

We feel the White Helmets are a testament to the resilience, courage and compassion of the Syrian people, and an example of true peacemakers: saving the lives of fellow Syrians, not because of what they believe or what side they are with, but because they are human and need help. The Asfari Foundation therefore encouraged the White Helmet’s nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize. The White Helmets have now been nominated; the decision will be made in November. The Syria Campaign is launching a public petition to support the nomination. I, and we all at the Asfari Foundation, are asking you to stand with us to honour these young men who unfailingly work for peace in Syria so that one day they can lay down their helmets and go back to their schools, jobs, families and homes in a peaceful Syria.

More information about the White Helmets is below. You can sign the petition here: Add your name if you think the White Helmets deserve the Nobel Peace Prize. Please forward this email to others.

With warmest wishes and many thanks

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