“We will not allow any criminals to stand in our way”
On Saturday, a gang attacked a civil defense center in Sarwin in Idlib Province in northwest Syria, killing seven White Helmets volunteers. The next day, rescuers and their supporters rallied across the country to assure that the work of the organization, which says it has saved more than 95,000 lives since 2013, would continue.
Syria Direct speaks with Rabia Hussein Diab, a volunteer in Sarmin:
Could you tell us about the seven members of the Syrian Civil Defense who were killed on Saturday? When was the last time you saw them?
They took the overnight shift on Friday night. They took stock of the medical equipment, the ambulance and the firetrucks so they would be ready to go if there were any airstrikes, fires or incidents.
These young men were ready to sacrifice themselves just to help others.
What does it mean for the Syrian Civil Defense to be attacked in opposition-controlled territory and under the protection of opposition factions?
Every time we go out on a rescue operation after an attack or bombardment, we know that we could be going toward our deaths. This is the work of the Civil Defense, and we all know that.
Crimes against the Civil Defense are not new, but this time is different. They were directly targeted. Now, all of Syria is dangerous. There are no safe places, and it does not matter if the territory is under the protection of opposition factions or the Syrian regime.
How has Saturday’s attack affected not only the Civil Defense’s ability to operate in the city, but also the group’s morale?
We will continue our work no matter what happens. We will not allow any criminals to stand in our way. These martyred members will be a beacon on our path to continue our humanitarian work, which will not stop.
Q: Has your organization had any issues with the local community or attacks before? How does this attack impact the Civil Defense’s relationship with the local community?
We don’t have any problems with anyone, as our work is purely humanitarian. We are citizens providing a service to citizens. We have been committed to neutrality since the beginning.
I don’t think that this incident will affect our relationship with the community. There is no hostility between us and the community. With every bombing or incident, we are the first ones on the scene — every man, woman and child knows this.