Wearing the White Hats | Sojourners

Wearing the White Hats

Syria Civil Defense workers - the "White Helmets" - haven't given up on the future of their country.
courtesy of thesyriacampaign.org
courtesy of thesyriacampaign.org

“IF THERE IS A SHELLING, stay away from the windows and crouch next to a sturdy piece of furniture—like a bed or a wardrobe.”

“In the case of a bombing, cover your head with your hands and scream for help.”

Although they read like lines from an emergency-preparedness instruction manual, these are actually from a children’s coloring book. The book follows Mahr, a little boy with big brown eyes and a bowl-shaped haircut, and “Bebo, the Puppy”—a slightly obese, striped orange dog—through a series of emergency situations, the kind that have been all too common in Syria.

“Just fold your hands over your head, like Mahr and Bebo, the Puppy.”

The book is illustrated, written, and distributed by Syria Civil Defense—a group of 2,600 volunteer rescue workers, renowned for saving civilians from explosions and barrel bombings in opposition-controlled Syria. The book is intended to instruct children, in a playful yet serious way, how to act during barrel bombings and shellings, which have become a part of daily life in Syria.

Mahr crouches next to a wardrobe during a shelling. After a barrel bombing, Bebo folds his paws over his floppy, cartoonish ears and screams for help. The wardrobe—another character in this Brave Little Toaster-like adaptation of a child’s perspective of the Syrian civil war—smiles down at both of them.

“Don’t worry—the civil defense is on its way.”

Although the Syrian revolution began as a nonviolent movement, inspired by the Arab uprisings in 2011, the Assad regime’s brutal and almost immediate crackdown on the demonstrations quickly escalated the protests into an armed revolt and, eventually, a civil war. Some protesters began to take up arms in self-defense, joined by defectors from the regime’s army, and later foreign fighters—forming what would become known as the Free Syrian Army (FSA), engaging in guerrilla-style military tactics to challenge the Assad regime.

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