Editorial: If anyone deserves a Nobel Peace Prize, it is Syria’s White Helmets

BRAVEHEARTS: Syrian rescue workers called The White Helmets carry the injured following regime airstrikes in Aleppo. (AP)
Updated 07 October 2016

Editorial: If anyone deserves a Nobel Peace Prize, it is Syria’s White Helmets

Wars are never a pretty sight. They tend to bring out the worst in humanity. The ongoing catastrophe in Syria since 2011 is no different. Over the past five years, we have seen it all — a brutal regime which has responded with bullets, barrel bombs and biological weapons to the legitimate demands of peaceful protesters who sought nothing more than to live decently, free from fear and be able to choose their leadership that is meant to be a republic.
We have seen the regime unleash monsters from its prisons, monsters who eventually became leaders of what is — probably — the most atrocious bunch of thugs humanity has ever seen, a terrorist organization by the name of Daesh. Not only did these criminals hijack the people’s peaceful protests and turn them militant, they also hijacked a whole religion and claimed a caliphate (or should we say a caliph-HATE) in its name.
Daesh has confiscated lands, raped women, tortured children, killed the elderly, burned people alive and recorded, broadcasted all of their above-mentioned crimes. Meanwhile, the regime sought to convince the international community that it is not the villain, but the victim. Unsurprisingly, the Assad regime was — and remains — backed by the world’s biggest state sponsor of terrorism, Iran.
The situation worsened for the crushed Syrian people when the world’s biggest superpower, the United States, failed to honor its word upon declaring that using chemical weapons is a red line. This not only encouraged Assad to carry on with his crimes, but also paved the way for a full-fledged and unprecedented Russian intervention in the region — an intervention that was not as much in support of the Syrian regime as it was to settle scores with Washington.
With the death toll estimated to exceed 400,000, and with millions of displaced Syrian refugees with no real hope of ever coming back home or resuming their normal life, the situation could not be any gloomier.
Yet, they say the night is darkest just before the dawn. While we all pray for the end of this ugly war, there is a glimpse of hope in The White Helmets — a group of around 3,000 local volunteers who are truly redefining the meaning of sacrifice, courage and patriotism.
Once normal citizens who were students, engineers, merchants or farmers, The White Helmets have taken it upon themselves to rush toward bombed sites and do what they can to pull out survivors left shocked and injured. Given the ongoing onslaught, one can only imagine how busy — and dangerous — the lives of these self-appointed rescuers can be.
As the Nobel Committee prepares to announce this year’s Peace Prize, Arab News joins everyone around the world who have signed an online petition in support of The White Helmets’ rightful nomination.
Furthermore, to everyone who has shed a tear, tweeted with anger, or wondered how they could help upon seeing the heartbreaking images of young Aylan Kurdi who drowned last year trying to escape this hell, or those of Omran Daqneesh who survived a recent airstrike and lives to most probably die another day, this is your chance to do something:
Go to https://nobelpeaceprize.whitehelmets.org/en and join us in backing The White Helmets.

EDITORIAL: Jeddah floods a reminder of why we need the anti-corruption drive

Saudi drivers take a flooded street in Jeddah on Tuesday. (AFP)
Updated 22 November 2017

EDITORIAL: Jeddah floods a reminder of why we need the anti-corruption drive

It has happened again. The roads, streets and many underpasses in Jeddah were flooded with rainwater on Tuesday. Many areas were turned into lakes because of the heavy, though forecast, downpour. In some areas, water was knee-deep while in others it was chest-deep. People were stuck in their vehicles and many were seen pushing their vehicles to the side of the roads with great difficulty. In low-lying areas, citizens struggled to remove their belongings from flooded houses.

For the residents of Jeddah, rain has, more often than not, brought trouble and devastation. Whenever the skies open up, thoughts go back to that “Black Wednesday” of November 25, 2009, when more than 100 people lost their lives and property worth billions of riyals was destroyed. An investigation was opened into the disaster and some of the guilty were taken to court and tried; some of the small fry were even jailed. As has been the case in the past, the mighty arm of the law could barely touch those at the top who enjoyed immunity from prosecution.

And so it was business as usual until the rain began to wreak havoc again, reminding us that the laws of nature take their course and that hiding your head in the sand does not chase the clouds away.

Having said that, it must be admitted that, yes, lessons were learned. A disaster management team was set up. The weather forecast department became active in issuing alerts. In fact, Tuesday could have been far worse had it not been for the timely alert from the Presidency of Meteorology and Environment (PME) and a prompt decision by the Ministry of Education to suspend classes, schools and universities in and around Jeddah. That helped in keeping people and vehicles off the streets. At noon on Tuesday, it looked as if the city were under some kind of curfew.

The questions that are on everyone's minds right now are: Why is it that rain renders the city helpless and immobile at this time every year? Why have efforts to create effective rainwater drainage systems not borne fruit despite pumping billions of riyals into new projects such as dams and canals? Why is it that the authorities are found wanting whenever heavy rain occurs? More importantly, what is the solution?

Here is the answer. These floods are a stark reminder of why the current drive against corruption is so essential. It is required in order to instill the fear of law into high-ranking officials and heads of construction companies and civic bodies who have failed in their responsibilities. Those who have cut corners and have pocketed public money, those who have not delivered on the projects and who have provided substandard services must pay for their sins of omission.

This is exactly what is happening. No one is above the law. The guilty, whoever they are, however high up they are, will have to pay — and they are. In this new era of transparency and accountability — initiated by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman — word has gone down from top to bottom that no one is immune. If you are guilty you will be punished. Those responsible for the havoc of the floods on Tuesday will have no rest either.