Statement on the Death of Eight White Helmet Volunteers

Refugees International is shocked and saddened to learn about the deaths this weekend of eight White Helmets volunteers in apparent Syrian government airstrikes.

The strikes reportedly hit a center run by the Syria Civil Defense, the rescue group also known as the White Helmets. The airstrike was one of the deadliest against the White Helmets organization, which works to assist and rescue civilians struggling to survive the six-year-old Syrian civil war. 

The White Helmets’ bravery and selflessness have earned the group world-wide recognition, including by Refugees International (RI). Just last week, RI awarded the White Helmets volunteers the 2017 McCall-Pierpaoli Humanitarian Award for their life-saving work. The White Helmets operate in some of the world’s most dangerous conditions, rescuing survivors of bombings and mortar attacks as well as working to re-instate public services such as electricity and water where government support no longer exists. 

The White Helmets volunteers frequently have been targets of Syrian government attacks, often as the volunteers are working to rescue fellow Syrian civilians trapped and injured by earlier military strikes. 

Refugees International condemns the apparent targeting of the White Helmets, humanitarian actors who work to aid Syrian civilians regardless of religious or political affiliation. We call on the U.S. and international community to place pressure on Syria and Russia to end the targeting of Syrian civilians and in particular immediately cease the targeted attacks on the White Helmets.