Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 6 April 2020

Syria White Helmets leader: 'it is a genocide, not a war'

Raed Al Saleh calls on international community to pressure Syrian politicians to stop conflict

The leader of Syria’s White Helmets search and rescue organisation on Tuesday said the conflict that has devastated the country for nearly nine years was not “a war”, but “a genocide” against civilians.

The organisation, also known as Syrian Civil Defence volunteer rescue group, comprises volunteers who operate in opposition-controlled Syria and in Turkey.

They help with medical and civilian evacuation, essential service delivery and search and rescue operations.

Syrian troops are continuing an assault on Idlib, the country's last major rebel stronghold, which has stoked fears of a humanitarian catastrophe as thousands of civilians flee their homes.

The UN estimates that the offensive in the north-western region has displaced about 900,000 people since the start of December.

Idlib and parts of its neighbouring Aleppo province are home to three million people. Half of them were already displaced from other parts of the country.

The regime "continue their crimes against civilians in Syria and the consciences of the world today are asleep", White Helmets leader Raed Al Saleh tweeted on Tuesday night.

“It seems that we need an electric shock to the consciences of the international community and the United Nations in order to wake up and carry out their mission in accordance with international laws to protect civilians in Syria."

Mr Al Saleh said the international community’s aid and donations had done little to benefit the Syrian people, who are “threatened by the largest massacre in history”.

“All the world's money will not stop killing one child with barrel bombs,” he said.

Mr Al Saleh called the international community to move to pressure politicians to take “a moral stance by protecting our people in Syria” before it is too late.

“What is happening in Syria is not war, as the media portray it. It is a genocide against the Syrian people,” he said.

Earlier on Tuesday, Michelle Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, called for the creation of humanitarian corridors in north-western Syria.

Updated: February 19, 2020 10:42 AM

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