Syrian government forces, backed by Russian airstrikes, have intensified their bombardment on the eastern area of Aleppo, where a quarter of a million people are now living under siege. Running towards the destruction are volunteers from the Syrian Civil Defense, a group of 3,000 rescue workers, known around the world as the White Helmets.
The Syrian Civil Defense’s efforts have garnered the group praise from humanitarians and human rights organizations around the world and drawn the ire of embattled Syrian president Bashar Al Assad who has regularly accused the group of being “swindlers.”
Monir Mustafa, Deputy Director of the Syrian Civil Defense, told VICE News that Syrian government forces are knowingly targeting public spaces like schools, hospitals and even the White Helmets own centers.
“So far White Helmets has lost 149 members, either from targeting civil defense centers or from attacks on locations they were working in,” Mustafa said.
VICE News’ Hind Hassan spoke to Mustafa, who was in the U.K. accepting a RISING Global peace forum prize on behalf of his organization’s efforts. They discussed the White Helmets work in Syria, the ongoing airstrikes in eastern Aleppo and his reaction to the U.S. presidential election.
“If Donald Trump thinks Syrian people are terrorists I ask him to reconsider his opinion,” Mustafa said. He told VICE News that the president-elect should keep an open mind when it comes to Syria’s brutal civil war.