By Jay Nordlinger
Editor’s Note: The Oslo Freedom Forum took place last week. This is the annual human-rights gathering in the Norwegian capital. Jay Nordlinger has been writing a journal on this gathering, and related matters, and the previous parts can be found at the following links: I, II, III, IV. The journal concludes today.
The Syrian Civil Defense is more commonly known as the “White Helmets.” They try to extract people from rubble. Their slogan is something like, “When the bombs go off, we go in.”
At the Nye Theater, we are hearing from Abdulrahman al-Mawwas, an official of this organization. He tells us about “barrel bombs” — which have the force of something like 8 on the Richter scale. He asks us to imagine these bombs going off constantly, menacing, terrifying, and killing civilians.
The White Helmets have 3,000 volunteers. They are organized in 120 teams. They have saved 92,000 lives. In the course of their work, 191 White Helmets have been killed.
Many of those fell victim to “double strikes,” says Mawwas. These started at the end of 2015, when Russians partnered with the Assad regime. What happens is this: Government forces drop a bomb. Rescuers rush in. Then, ten or fifteen minutes later, government forces drop another bomb, getting the rescuers.
In addition to the 191 dead, 500 White Helmets have been injured.
They suffer a further indignity when they are subjected to propaganda — to “fake news.” For instance, Russia’s RT says that the White Helmets are part of al-Qaeda. This propaganda is meant to discourage financial support of the White Helmets, says Mawwas.
He says that the White Helmets are targeted for three big reasons: (1) A tyrant doesn’t want there to be witnesses to his crimes. (2) The White Helmets have witnessed the use of weapons that are banned by international law. (3) They have proof.
“Like other Syrians, I was just an ordinary person when the war started,” says Mawwas. He had just finished his studies in mechanical engineering. He wanted to go off and pursue his career. But he stayed in order to help his countrymen.