In Syria this week, Nawal Al Youssef was killed while volunteering in a centre for children with special needs. Like so many others in Syria, she did this activity protected by nothing more than an emblem. And like too many others, this emblem – which has protected millions over the decades – was not enough.
We talk, as a Movement, about volunteering being an act of humanity, but for most of us, our volunteering is undertaken during times of relative peace and stability. Nawal’s situation was different. She joined the Syrian Arab Red Crescent two years ago, when the conflict was raging around her. She understood there would be danger, but her mission was important enough that the danger was secondary.
This dedication shows Nawal to be an exceptional, unique humanitarian. But there are 3,000 other volunteers working every day in Syria protected by a symbol that means something only because we all agree that it means something. Exceptional, unique humanitarians. People who understand and experience the importance of neutrality every day.
The deserve our respect.
The surreal logic of this tragedy is that every time another volunteer dies, it seems to have less impact. We do not believe this. Every volunteer – every individual volunteer – is important beyond measure, and each time one is killed we will raise our voices. We will make more noise so that everyone understands Nawal was a person, not a statistic.
Respect the emblem. Protect our volunteers.