The Syrian Civil Defence are a group of volunteer first responders in the most dangerous place on earth.
My name is Adam II*. I am 21 years old and I am a team leader of a Civil Defense in Idlib, Syria. Before I started saving lives, I studied topography at the University — that was another life.
Idlib is is a site for clashes between the Free Syrian Army and the Syrian state army, which retaliates by bombarding civilians’ neighbourhoods. The destruction is enormous — 60% of infrastructure is destroyed. Shelling also brings the loss of many people’s lives. I have witnessed a massacre where 48 people were killed. It is indescribable — to see 48 people killed and many trapped under the rubble. I see many attacks every day.
In Civil Defense our goal is protect lives and people see us as the saviours of life. This is all what we work for. This what we do every day. When we wake, we wake up in the morning, we go and check on the places that were hit by the shelling to rescue as many people as we can. I have to be the first on this, as leader. When you go on a rescue mission you see lots of suffering, destruction, grief and panicked children. It is not easy to see all this, but when you save someone’s life you feel wonderful, so you do the best you can to find survivors. I also have to check on the team during and after each mission, to make sure they are safe and protect them from danger; we don’t want them to get hurt as they are the ones who help people. Finally, I secure food for the team.
Civil Defence volunteers in Idleb have a great value in peoples’ hearts, and they respect us because of our humanitarian role. We are not fighting or hurting others. When you help people to retain their hope they will never forget what you’ve done for them. It’s easy to kill someone, but the most wonderful thing is to rather save lives.
I have a seven-year-old sister. I worry for her every day. My little sister went to school one day to find out that one of her dear friends wasn’t there anymore. After every incident, she returns home wondering where her friends are, and what’s happening. Our children are experiencing loss of their classmates, at a very young age — living in such circumstances where the boom of explosions are heard continuously. There are children who wake up to find their parents dead, or to find themselves trapped under rubbles. Everything I thought about was playing football or games, children now are just thinking about is playing with weapons or acting as if they carry one. When children grow up in a war zone, war influences them.
I have this message I would like to tell the world. Syrian people are peaceful and we had no other choice than the war and now many civilians are dying in dreadful circumstances. People think we are extremists, but we fight extremism, as we are aware of the bad influence it has on people. We are not biased and we cannot be — we do our best to save all people we can regardless of their background, our mission is to save lives not to take it. I hope what we are doing becomes a message of peace to the entire world and hope that war in Syria ends as soon as possible. I’m saying this because we lived the war and we know how it changes people.
Find out more about the work the Civil Defense Force is doing inside Syria and learn about ways you can help.
* Adam II is a pseudonym the writer requested to protect their identity.