September 27, 2016
On September 27, 2016 the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East hosted a discussion on the conditions in northern Syria and the work of the Syria Civil Defense, or “White Helmets. Ambassador Frederic C. Hof, director of the Hariri Center, moderated a discussion with the head of the White Helmets Raed al-Saleh, Syria program manager for Mayday Rescue Farouq Habib, and Hariri Center senior fellow Faysal Itani. Syria Campaign legal and policy adviser Kenan Rahmani translated for Saleh.

Saleh discussed the circumstances under which he became of the head of the organization – a path that led him from training on civil defense techniques to leading a team of volunteers that has saved over 60,000 lives. Saleh described the ongoing circumstances in Aleppo, where civil defense centers and convoys were among the noncombatants being targeted, and warned that the casualty numbers would only increase as more people were discovered under the rubble and others perished from not having access to sufficient medical care. Saleh said his team hopes for the day when they will no longer have to do search and rescue and can instead train others across the world in these techniques to respond to natural and manmade disasters. Habib also discussed the training and support that Mayday Rescue provides to the White Helmets, and Itani framed the discussion with the military situation in northern Syria and across the country.