Syria's White Helmets parade through Jisr al-Shughour on seventh anniversary of founding
Syria's Civil Defence, also know as the White Helmets, celebrated the 7th anniversary of their founding this week by conducting a parade in the city of Jisr Al-Shughour in Idlib province.
The group raised their flag in the city before marching through it to mark the occasion before paying tribute to their volunteers who had been killed during the deadly conflict, a spokesperson from the White Helmets said.
The White Helmets, who say they have lost 292 volunteers, most of them killed as a result of direct targeting or strikes by Syrian regime and Russian forces, were widely celebrated across social media with supporters using the hashtag #WhiteHelmetsDay to thank the group for their humanitarian efforts.
"I feel full of pride looking at the past seven years and the ways we have been able to help Syrian civilians and be with them in every way we can... but it has also been a time full of sadness," White Helmets volunteer Moussa Al-Zaydan told The New Arab.
Today is the 7th anniversary of the founding of Syria Civil Defense. We renew our commitment and dedication to our people who have endured a great deal of death and displacement. We will remain by their side until justice and stability are served.#WhiteHelmetsDay pic.twitter.com/X0P04vkrhR— The White Helmets (@SyriaCivilDef) October 25, 2021
"We lost many of volunteers who were like family... it's also very difficult to see citizens hurt, pulling them out of the rubble of bombed buildings is a very terrifying and saddening scene... they're our people" Al-Zaydan continued.
The parade, which was attended by White Helmets volunteers only to prevent the spread of Covid, was filmed last week and uploaded to social media on Monday to coincide with the date of the anniversary.
The White Helmets, who began their work in 2012 as grassroots teams of volunteers across Syria before officially becoming a unified group in 2014, renewed their commitment to Syrian civilians in a series of tweets stating they will "remain by their side until justice and stability are served".
Many international officials showed their support for the group on the anniversary, including Kelly Craft, US Ambassador to the UN, who thanked the White Helmets in a tweet "for showing the world what true courage looks like".
Deep appreciation to @SyriaCivilDef for showing the world what true courage looks like — saving vulnerable lives and exposing the atrocities the Assad regime is committing against the people of Syria. You are heroes for your humanitarianism, service & sacrifice. #WhiteHelmetsDay https://t.co/GAYxCLDPQV— Kelly Craft (@KellyCraftKY) October 25, 2021
The group have also gathered messages of support from NGO's working to help Syrians, including Syria Relief.
"We have seen throughout this decade of war, that civilian life has been routinely targeted, it has been necessary for organisations like The White Helmets to exist to help protect civilian life. They are the best of humankind... [they are] real life superheroes," the NGO's Head of Communications and Advocacy, Charles Lawley, told The New Arab.
"They put their lives in danger, whilst trying to remove the lives of others from danger... the work they do is exemplary," Lawley added.
Since the beginning of the Syrian revolution in 2011, over 350,000 people have been killed and millions more displaced, mostly as a result of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's violent crackdown on protests and subsequent bombing of civilian areas.
Aisha Aldris is a journalist and podcast host, accredited by the Broadcast Journalism Training Council. She specialises in social and humanitarian issues, alongside cultural identity and the arts. Follow her on twitter: @aishaaldris