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Syria Civil Defense (White Helmets)

Last modified: 2020-09-25 by ian macdonald
Keywords: syria | civil defense | white helmets |
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Syria Civil Defense (White Helmets) image by Esteban Rivera, 24 July 2018

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The "الدفاع المدني السوري" (English: Syrian Civil Defense), also known as "الخوذ البيضاء" (English: White helmets) or "القبعات البيضاء" (English: White hats) is a volunteer organisation that operates in parts of rebel-controlled Syria and in Turkey. Formed in 2014 during the Syrian Civil War, the majority of their activity in Syria consists of urban search and rescue in response to bombing, medical evacuation, evacuation of civilians from danger areas, and essential service delivery. They are widely known as White helmets because of their gear, but also to differentiate from the
official "الدفاع المدني السوري" (English: Syrian Civil Defence Forces), also known as Self-Protection Squads, which is the official civil defence organisation that operates in Syria, established in 1953, which is also known as The People's Army.

The rescue teams that later became Syria Civil Defence emerged during the late 2012 escalation of the Syrian Civil War, as areas no longer under government control came under sustained attack by government forces. In response, in the absence of formal governmental structures, small groups of civilian volunteers from affected communities, particularly in Aleppo and Idlib, assembled to assist civilians injured in bombardment or trapped under the rubble of destroyed buildings. Training, funding and support was provided from international partners, including donations from governments in Western Europe, the US and Japan; the Turkish AKUT Search and Rescue Association; and a variety of NGOs, private individuals, public fundraising campaigns, and charities. Primary support and training was provided by Mayday Rescue Foundation, a not-for-profit foundation established by a former British Army officer, and became a key factor in the development of the organisation.

Local and provincial councils joined with Mayday Rescue Foundation and AKUT Search and Rescue Association to create the first training programmes in early 2013. ARK (formally: Ark Group DMCC, official website:, an international contracting firm based in the United Arab Emirates, would facilitate entry of volunteers to Turkey, where they would be trained by AKUT. Early training courses included trauma care, command and control and crisis management. Over the next two years, the number of independent civil defence teams grew to several dozen as graduates who established new centers; the national organisation of SCD was founded on October 25, 2014at a conference of independent teams."
Sources:, and

The flag is a white horizontal background with the logo (, as seen here:

For additional information go to Syria Civil Defense (official website):
Esteban Rivera, 24 July 2018