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As a patriotic Syrian, I never imagined

I would do this
In an incredibly candid and powerful address Raed
Saleh, head of the White Helmets, speaks truth to
power at the UN Security Council Arria Briefing on
the 26th of June
Your Excellency ambassador Roman Oyarzun, Permanent
Representative of Spain to the United Nations,
Your Excellency ambassador Francois Delattre, Permanent
Representative of France to the United Nations,
Gentlemen, Representatives of UN Security Council member
First, I would like to thank you for extending this generous
invitation to the Syrian Civil Defence (The White Helmets)
and asking its head to attend this session to convey the
message of the search and rescue teams in Syria about the
suffering of the Syrian people due to the regimes bombing
with indiscriminate weapons, particularly barrel bombs.
I am not a politician, nor am I a diplomat. I am just a search
and rescue worker. Therefore, I beg your forgiveness if I
sound candid the tragedy of my people demands it.
First, I would like to invite you to watch this short video as it
provides a glimpse of the work we carry out in the aftermath
of barrel bomb attacks and what this work means to us.
What you have seen is just one example of a single rescue
operation that succeeded in saving a child. We have been

able to save more than sixteen thousand lives in Syria from

under the rubble, but unfortunately the number of civilians
killed in indiscriminate bombing is much higher.
I cannot describe to you what our daily life is like as we deal
with the human remains and the destruction that these
weapons leave behind, especially after the Syrian army filled
those weapons with poisonous chlorine gas that this very
council had classified as a chemical weapon and had banned!
Syrians are killed everyday with various kinds of weapons,
but the deadliest ones are the barrel bombs because of their
indiscriminate nature. They destroy everything including
schools, bakeries, hospitals, houses of worship and even
cemeteries. Because of them the sounds of helicopters
hovering in the Syrian sky are enough to cause terror and
panic among civilians. That sound means anticipating death
without anyone knowing where the barrel bomb will fall
exactly and whom it will kill!
The moment sirens go off, we rush to the site of the barrel
bomb attack and we try, with our very modest equipment, to
search for survivors still under the rubble. More often than
not, all we manage to dig out are the dead bodies and
severed limbs of our neighbors, friends and sometimes
The terror we face is double-fold because the Syrian Air Force
has adopted a new technique when carrying out their attacks.
Its called a double tap; the aircraft returns to the site of the
attack minutes after the rescue teams arrive and people start
to gather to rescue those who are still alive.
Due to our persistence and determination to carry out our
humanitarian work despite the difficult circumstances, regime
warplanes now regularly and deliberately target our teams
and centres. We have lost 92 members of our search and

rescue teams so far. Many of those we lost were killed in

barrel bomb double taps while carrying out their duty.
In all the countries around the world, search and rescue
teams are immune from bombing under the Geneva
conventions, yet this is not the case in Syria. Just a few hours
ago, my colleagues told me that the only two ambulances
available in the village of Balyoon in the Idlib Countryside
were destroyed in an aerial raid and that six civil defence
volunteers were wounded.
Last month, my colleague, the head of the Civil Defence in
Maaret Al-Artiq, in Aleppo suburbs, requested that we
camouflage ambulances and fire engines by painting them
with different colours because their original color makes them
easy targets of the deliberate bombing! Can you imagine
Can you even imagine one single day of our lives?
Let me take you with me to the first day of June. On that day,
we responded to 44 barrel bomb attacks across Syriain
Aleppo, Idlib, Daraa, Homs, and Rural Damascusas well as
seven rocket attacks and a chlorine gas attack. 136 people
were killed, including a child, and all but 6 of the victims were
Even in wartime conduct, there is no justification for the use
of this weapon since even the pilot himself whos dropping
the barrel bomb does not know exactly where it will fall as it
is a truly indiscriminate weapon that cannot even be used on
the front line as it can kill allied forces by mistakewhich is
why it is only ever dropped deep inside opposition-held areas.
The main purpose of this weapon is the collective punishment
of the communities that live in areas outside regime control.
The regime wants to make their lives a living hell to convey

the false message that they cannot live except under the rule
of the Assad family.
This is, of course, one of the main reasons that millions of
Syrians have been displaced to neighboring countries, and
its a real obstacle to the establishment of effective
institutions that can govern on the ground.
There is no doubt whatsoever that the unrelenting
indiscriminate killing of Syrians with these barrel bombs and
other lethal weapons, the obstacles preventing Syrians from
establishing civilian administrative institutions in liberated
areas, and the absence of a political solution on the horizon
are all fueling the spread of extremism.
Ladies and Gentlemen, what do you expect a simple Syrian
citizen like me to ask from this council? Do we ask for more
ambulances that the Syrian Regime will soon destroy
anyway? Do we ask for more digging tools to recover bodies
and limbs and bury them? Or do we ask for new resolutions
condemning these acts to be added to the previous list of
resolutions that youve signed, while some of you are still
supporting the Syrian Regime politically, materially and
militarily, including with spare parts for the aircraft used to
drop these barrel bombs and kill more Syrians?
The international community has lost its credibility for Syrians
in the absence of any political will to end the killing in Syria,
and the UN Security Council has been transformed from the
Security to the Insecurity Council in the eyes of the
downtrodden because it has failed to uphold its own
The Syrian people who are being killed every day, Ladies and
Gentlemen, hold you responsible and demand that all
measures available to end the killing, particularly with
indiscriminate weapons, be taken immediately.

As a patriotic Syrian, I never imagined I would one day ask for

a foreign intervention in my country, by land or air. But the
lives of innocent women and children that we see dying in our
hands every day compel us to ask for any intervention
possible to stop the barbaric killing machine led by Bashar alAssad, including preventing Syrian aircraft from flying, and
especially preventing helicopters from hovering above us and
dropping these bombs.
Before the strongest power on this planet, all I can do is ask
that you awaken your conscience and tell me what you are
going to do to stop these barrel bombs.
In all honesty, I hesitated a lot before coming here. Many of
my colleagues asked me: why are you going? What do you
expect from them?
My wish is that you provide me with an answer to take home
with me.
Thank you.
Raed Al Saleh
Head of the Syrian Civil Defence