General Secretary of the United Nations Ban Ki-Moon has called it a war crime: human existence in Aleppo is nearly impossible and fears for the survival of hundreds of thousands is not an overstatement of the situation. Constant, coordinated attacks by Assad’s Syrian Air Force, backed by Russia, commenced on September 19th only hours after a tenuous ceasefire lapsed. The US is claiming that aid convoys targeted by Syria and Russia signalled the commencement of a plan to destroy Aleppo and anyone within it. Residents are trapped. There is no escape route and Assad appears determined to destroy whatever rebel movement remains no matter what the cost of lives to civilians, or the famous first responders of Aleppo, the White Helmets.
If the ceasefire had held, then this month, and the ones that follow, would have been very different for the White Helmets and the citizens of Aleppo. The White Helmets are of course the volunteers in the city’s civil defence force – brave men and women that rush into the firefights and bombing zones to save lives at the risk of their own – and now the subjects of a Netflix documentary that highlights their efforts in what is the most dangerous place on earth.
The Netflix documentary, ‘The White Helmets,’ from the Oscar-nominated team behind the documentary ‘Virunga,’ was available for streaming on Netflix from 16th September. In living rooms across the world millions of people can now walk the bombed out streets of Aleppo and see the chaos of life and death these inspiring rescue workers deal with.
This is a documentary that has been years in planning and was very nearly scrapped before it started. The filmmakers themselves had recognised that even attempting to document the rescue work in the city was extremely dangerous, but their motivation was that awareness of the human cost could be the key factor that could change the course of history. This documentary could be the catalyst that multiplies a global movement of support for the White Helmets and forces world leaders to act to stop the bombs raining down on Syrian families.
When the press kits for the movie were handed out earlier this month the death toll of White Helmets killed while saving lives stood at 141. After more than 2000 air sorties and bombardments from the skies since the end of the ceasefire, the toll is innumerably higher. No information is being received from Aleppo. No one can enter, and none can leave.
For the White Helmets and for every Syrian civilian, let’s watch this film, share news of it with your family and friends, and demand support for the White Helmets and their message of peace.