The White Helmets received praise as well as criticism for their work in Syria, bearing the weight of targets of the Assad regime, and being called angels for the heroic acts they perform, saving many Syrians, all victims to the large scale bombing campaign throughout Syria.
At the height of the conflict, it was estimated that the White Helmets were roughly saving 65 people a day. As it is wholly a good deed to be saving your neighbors, Quested and Junger thought that those acts could not go unrecognized in evaluating this complicated war.
As the war evolved, The White Helmets inevitably had to cooperate with the various rebel factions in Syria’s disputed territories. Abdullah describes how difficult it was for the groups to agree on democratic representation for the state:
“In the first place you’re refusing to include politics in the revolution and nobody is showing they’re belonging to a party or ideology, no one dare say I’m a secular, democratic, civic, leftist, rightist, they don’t dare do that.” says Abdullah.
It is this fear of belonging to a party that the international community can attach an agenda against, that has plagued the revolution from the beginning. This is the story of volunteers battling this predicament, with the core objective to protect their neighbors.
“The work is emotionally draining, especially in the field,” says Quested. “You couldn’t really build a level of trust without being there. You have to go there, you have to meet the people and explain to them what you’re trying to do. You have to acknowledge that the struggle of the Syrian people is not always fairly portrayed in the western media.”
“You can’t sugarcoat the suffering of the Syrian people. We didn’t go out to shock people. We went to show people how it really is. It’s entirely documentary, exactly as it is happening. This is the reality.”
The WhiteHelmets by Nick Quested & Sebastian Junger
Edited: Alex Spiess
Camera: Mohamad Shaban, Carsten Stormer, Mahmoud Alhaji Othman
Additional Editing: Amina Megalli