How did the Syria Civil Defence form?

When the peaceful revolution in Syria descended into a conflict, areas across the country became liberated from the control of the Syrian regime. The regime’s response to this liberation was to attack these areas from the air, block aid and, in some instances, place them under siege. As these areas came under increasingly heavy attacks, with some being bombed as often as fifty times a day, groups of civilians formed volunteer teams that responded to the aftermath of regime attacks: searching for people caught under the rubble, helping the injured get to medical care, burying the dead and securing the sites.

First emerging in late 2012-early 2013 as the use of aerial bombardment by the regime escalated, these self-organised groups quickly formed into volunteer centres. The first centres appeared in Aleppo City, Douma and Al Bab. After forming individual centres these groups coalesced at the provincial level and began communicating with each other as we were all doing the same work -- saving lives and helping our communities. One of the first things we knew we needed was proper training and equipment in order to save more lives.

We approached one of the aid organisations already providing support to civil society to ask if they could help provide technical training and equip our centres to make our work more effective. The first training was organised in Turkey in March 2013 with a team of twenty-five people from Anadan, Northern Aleppo. Following the success of that training we asked for the program to be expanded to more teams from more areas. The training provided us with vital knowledge on search and rescue as well as basic equipment to save lives. It also helped us understand that what we were doing was a set of activities defined as ‘civil defence’ tasks in international humanitarian law. This fit with our mission to aid all in need regardless of religion or political affiliation.

In October 2014 we had our first annual meeting of representatives from across all of Syria and agreed that we should officially form one organisation with a shared mission and national leadership. Since that moment we have grown from XX centres with 2267 civil defenders to 120 centres with 2890 civil defenders.

Every volunteer takes the following pledge and you can see the code of conduct for all members of the Syria Civil Defence here.

I, ..(State name)…share the Civil Defence ideal of protection and assistance for all.

I pledge to fulfil all missions which will be entrusted to me in the spirit of the fundamental values of Civil Defence which are neutrality, impartiality and humanity.