I write to you with a heavy heart — yesterday Khaled, a White Helmet, was martyred in airstrike on Aleppo. Many of you know Khaled from the ‘Miracle Baby’ video when he rescued a ten day old baby, little Little Mahmoud [pictured] after his three storey home collapsed following an airstrike.
On the day of the rescue Khaled had laid down exhausted after nine hours of digging. The team didn’t think anyone else could have survived. His head was on a pile of rubble when he heard a baby crying beneath. “I thought I was being delusional because I was so tired. I asked my friend, ‘Will you listen? Put your ear here and try to hear. I think I hear a baby’s voice.’ He said, ‘Yes, it is!’” It truly was a miracle.
But little Mahmoud is one of countless lives he saved, each one a miracle. Khaled joined the White Helmets in the early days, since then he has responded to hundreds of attacks — and each time he made the same choice — to run towards bombs knowing he could be killed.
Two years ago Khaled got on a plane for the first time to travel from under the bombs of Aleppo to the U.S. where I met him. We had many meetings with Congress, the Senate and other policy makers where he asked them what they would do to stop the bombs. Khaled had a huge heart — he believed that if politicians understood what the Assad regime was doing, if they could see the videos of airstrikes on children, surely they would stop them. How could any human not?
Since then the ‘Miracle Baby’ video has been screened to dozens of world leaders and to the UN Security Council — the same people who could have stopped the attack that killed him. But Khaled never got the answer to his question.
But where his pleas fell on deaf ears with politicians his bravery touched millions of people around the world. For so many Khaled became a symbol of the Syrian revolution and the endless heroic acts and sacrifices Syrians have made to save Syria.
Khaled lived by the White Helmet’s motto taken from the Quran: ‘to save a life is to save all of humanity’. In an interview in the U.S. Khaled said “For me, this is the real jihad, if I die saving lives, I think God would definitely consider me a martyr.” Khaled is the hundred and thirty-second White Helmet to be killed whilst saving lives.
Please keep his wife, his two little girls and his fellow volunteers in your thoughts and prayers.
Before the revolution Khaled was a painter and decorator. Yesterday he died a hero of humanity.
We are all heartbroken.