“They carried the injured on their shoulders”

On Saturday seven White Helmet volunteers were executed while on night duty at their centre in Sarmin, Idlib. Among them were Obaida al-Radwan and Hamza Kroma, both originally from Homs. This is a tribute from their friend Mohammad.

Obaida al-Rawdwan (left), Hamza Kroma (right)

When I checked Facebook that morning and saw the photos from the crime scene, I was in total shock. I did not expect to read Obaida and Hamza’s names among those killed. We had spoken recently and promised to meet again soon.

It is heartbreaking that they are gone like this, after all the difficulties they faced in Homs. After all the risks they took and the dangers they survived. We became close friends during the siege of al-Waer neighbourhood in Homs. I used to film them on rescue missions and keep them company during their night shifts. Even after the intense aerial assaults had destroyed all the civil defence vehicles, they didn’t stop trying to save lives — they carried the injured on their shoulders and ran with them to the hospitals.

When the forced displacement from al-Waer to Idlib started, Obaida and Hamza were among the last to leave. They wanted to stay so that they can help in case of any emergencies. And when they arrived to Idlib, they wanted to continue volunteering with the White Helmets. They were needed most in the Sarmin centre. I think it was their fate.

Just a few days ago I was talking to Obaida, reminiscing about our days in Homs and all that we’ve been through together. He told I was a brother to him. He sounded as motivated and driven as ever, just like I knew him to be in al-Waer. Both him and Hamza had this quality in them. They joined the White Helmets since its establishment, and they remained motivated and committed to helping others no matter what. Abu Kifah, who was among those killed, was like that as well. I think this drive that God put in their hearts is what enabled them to show incredible humanity in their work everyday.

If I could send a message to Obaida and Hamza, I would like to tell them that we will continue on the humanitarian path they started. I am honoured to have known them, to have been their friend during these times.

Mohammad al-Homsi

Mohammad al-Homsi is a media activist and a close friend of Obaida and Hamza. A version of this tribute appeared first in an interview Mohammad gave to Alwan FM.

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