International

Syria’s White Helmets ‘proud’ after Oscar nomination

BEIRUT: Syria’s White Helmets rescue workers said on Tuesday they were “proud” that a documentary film about their work saving civilians in their country’s devastating war was nominated for an Oscar.

“The White Helmets documentary produced by Netflix was nominated for (an) Oscar!! I’m so proud to have filmed this film and for this nomination,” wrote White Helmet photographer Khaled Khatib on Twitter.

The documentary titled “The White Helmets” was named a contender Tuesday in the Oscars short documentary category.

“It’s a new opportunity to convey (our) humanitarian and moral message,” Raed Saleh, leader of the rescue group, told AFP after the announcement.

“The White Helmets film’s nomination for an Oscar is a new confirmation of the civil defence’s credibility in Syria.”

“It will help us to reach the goal and the slogan we have been using since the start: ‘To save one life is to save all of humanity’,” he added.

The White Helmets emerged in 2013, working to rescue civilians in rebel-held areas during the nearly six-year war.

It counts over 3,000 volunteers among its ranks, and says it has saved more than 78,000 lives.

It is named for the distinctive white hard hats worn by its volunteers and has gained international renown for its daring rescues, often filmed and circulated on social media.

The film, directed by Orlando von Einsiedel, is one of several movies streaming online to be nominated for a prize at the 89th Academy Awards, to be handed out on February 26 in Hollywood.

The White Helmets were nominated for the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize and garnered international support for their candidacy, though they ultimately lost out.

Their detractors, mostly supporters of President Bashar al-Assad’s government, accuse them of being tools of their international donors.

But others have hail the group’s volunteers as “real life heroes”.

Syria’s conflict started in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests and has since spiralled into a complex war, killing more than 310,000 people and displacing over half the country’s population.

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