In his last interview, Assad said that the Oscar prize given for a documentary about “The White Helmets” is a gift for al-Qaeda and “legalization” for terrorism in Syria.
The eponymously titled White Helmets, a 40-minute Netflix film, gives a window into the lives of the group’s volunteers as they scramble to pull people from the rubble of buildings flattened in bombing raids.
The White Helmets is a volunteer rescue group that operates in rebel-held parts of Syria
Accepting the Academy Award, director Orlando von Einsiedel urged the audience to get out of their seats and call for an end to Syria’s six-year crisis , which led to a standing ovation.
Von Einsiedel read a statement from White Helmets founder Raed al-Saleh in which he thanked the academy and said the group had saved tens of thousands of lives since it was formed in 2014.
“We are so grateful that this film has highlighted our work to the world. Our organisation is guided by a verse from the Quran: to save one life is to save all of humanity,” Saleh’s statement said.
“We have saved more than 82,000 Syrian lives. I invite anyone here who hears me to work on the side of life to stop the bloodshed in Syria and around the world.”
In a short acceptance speech — posted online after a documentary won the Oscar — Raed Saleh appealed to governments around the world “to stop the bloodshed of the Syrian people.”
“I ask everyone who is listening and seeing me now across the world to take a stand. Stop the killing of civilians,” he said, speaking from southern Turkey.
Gift for al-Qaeda
Assad, in an interview with Chinese TV station Phoenix that was published by Syria’s state television SANA on Saturday, was asked about opinion about White Helmets and the prize they won, to respond that this prize is a gift for al-Qaeda, as this group is “a face of al-Qaeda” as he claimed.
“First of all, we have to congratulate al-Nusra for having the first Oscar! This is an unprecedented event for the West to give Al Qaeda an Oscar; this is unbelievable, and this is another proof that the Oscars, Nobel, all these things are politicized certificates, that’s how I can look at it,” he said.
“The White Helmets story is very simple; it is a facelift of al-Nusra Front in Syria, just to change their ugly face into a more humanitarian face, that’s it. And you have many videos on the net and of course images broadcasted by the White Helmets that condemn the White Helmets as a terrorist group, where you can see the same person wearing the white helmet and celebrating over the dead bodies of Syrian soldiers,” he added.
In addition, Assad claimed that these “politicalized prizes” aim at accusing his forces and the Russians of crimes, while what they seek is “liberating the country.”
“So, that’s what the Oscar went to, to those terrorists. So, it’s a story just to try to prevent the Syrian Army during the liberation of Aleppo from making more pressure on the attacking and liberating the districts within the city that have been occupied by those terrorists, to say that the Syrian Army and the Russians are attacking the civilians and the innocents and the humanitarian people.”
The real heroes
Despite Assad’s claims, the whole world knows the real role of the Whitle Helmets and the principals they work according to.
The White Helmet volunteers have operated for years in rebel-held zones in Syria, helping pull survivors from the rubble of buildings hit by airstrikes and bombardments.
The group has won several humanitarian awards and was thought to be in the running for last year’s Nobel Peace Prize, which went to Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos for his role in helping negotiate a peace deal to end a civil war of more than 50 years.
However, their work isn’t easy as they face death with every rescue operation they conduct.
Rescue workers in Syria are at risk of being killed in so-called “double tap” air raids that target them as they arrive at the scene of a strike. The group says that many of its volunteers have been killed.
more than 150 White Helmets have been killed in the line of duty. Some were bombed at the site of an earlier blast. Last fall, the Aleppo headquarters seen in “The White Helmets” film was hit twice in the same day.
As the Academy Award proceedings began in Hollywood, the White Helmets posted news to their Twitter account that toxic substances had been dropped on civilian homes in the countryside around Damascus, leaving people in the area struggling to breathe.
Another message showed the rescue workers digging a child out from the twisted rubble of his home in the northwestern province of Idlib.
“When ‘The White Helmets’ was announced a winner of the Academy Award, our team in Ariha, Idleb was rescuing a child,” read the accompanying message.
“That’s the real win.”
When "The White Helmets" was announced a winner of the academy award, our team in Ariha, Idleb was rescuing a child. And that's the real win https://t.co/BapxDiFuMS
— The White Helmets (@SyriaCivilDef) February 27, 2017
The Syrian crisis began as a peaceful demonstration against the injustice in Syria. Assad regime used to fire power and violence against the civilians and led to armed resistance. 450.000 Syrians lost their lives in the past five years according to UN estimates, and more than 12 million have lost their homes.