Solidarity Campaign with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent Volunteers

03 November 2013

A group of former volunteers at the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC)—a member of the International Committee of the Red Cross and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, operating in Syria—launched a solidarity campaign aimed at raising awareness about the organization and clearing some of the misconceptions people may have about its role in Syria.

Many Syrians regard the SARC as a puppet organization that is primarily under the control of the Syrian ministry of health. The fact that ambulances controlled by state hospitals (as opposed to ambulances run by the SARC) have been used to arrest protesters has added to this confusion. This has resulted in very harsh attacks on the humanitarian organization and accusations of bias from all sides.

The campaign, which was launched in January 2013, hopes to bring attention to the “important, but largely hidden, role the SARC plays in helping those in need, and the difficult conditions under which its volunteers are forced to operate.”

The campaign started at a time when a rising number of SARC volunteers were being detained by regime forces. The organizers summarized their main activities in the following points:

  • Curating reports and breaking news from the different pages for local SARC branches around the country. (This is done independently of these pages, as the campaign is not officially connected to the SARC in any way.)
  • Bringing attention to the detained SARC volunteers and publishing details about them and their work.
  • Commemorating SARC volunteers who died in the field, and keeping their memory alive as martyrs.
  • Making contact with international organizations including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the UN Office of the Higher Commissioner for Human Rights, and providing them with detailed information about the obstructions facing the SARC, as well as complete files on detained volunteers.

In the words of its organizers, the campaign’s main message is that “SARC volunteers are working for a noble and higher cause, which is to provide assistance to whomever may need it regardless of which side of the conflict they belong to. And to that cause, these volunteers put their own lives in danger. But they are human, and they have limited resources especially in the face of arms. In essence, the SARC volunteers are not under the agency of either side, and they deserve respect from their fellow citizens.”

The main obstacles facing the campaign are:

  • Contradictory information and the difficulty verifying news in certain cases.
  • The constant fear for security of their information sources inside the country, who face detention and even elimination if they are discovered.
  • The fears of parents and families of detainees and their aversion, at times, to publicizing the details of their arrest for fear of retribution.

The main obstacle, by far, remains the fact that few people understand the strictly neutral nature of humanitarian medical work in war times. This is what this campaign aims to raise awareness of.


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Illustation by Dima Nechawi Graphic Design by Hesham Asaad