Mr Nadal Izz Den, accepting the Tipperary Peace Prize on behalf of the Syrian 'White Helmets'.
The recipients of the Tipperary International Peace Prize for 2016 - the Syrian Civil Defence or ‘White Helmets’ - have been the target of an internet smear campaign, the main host and organiser has said.
In a robust defence of the 3,300 White Helmet volunteers, Tipperary Peace Convention Chairman Mr Martin Quinn said there are “no verifiable links between the SDC” and radical Islamic groups, and disinformation has “replaced fact with frenzy”.
White Helmets, responsible for saving up to 100,000 people, have paid the ultimate price themselves with the loss of at least 200 unarmed volunteers while saving the lives of others, said Mr Quinn.
The White Helmets were represented by Nedal Izz Den, who spoke movingly of his experiences during the 7-year-long Syrian Civil War which has claimed more than 400,000 lives.
A group of about 20 protesters carried flags and placards outside Ballykisteen House Hotel today as part of a planned protest. There was a stronger than usual Garda presence at the ceremony, which was attended by the Irish Syrian Solidarity Movement, the First Responders emergency services group, the Mayday Rescue Foundation, Ambassadors, Councillors, and Senator Martin Conway, who spoke on behalf of the government.
Congratulations were sent to Mr Izz Den from previous Peace Prize recipient Malala Yousafzai, and the Moroccan Ambassador to Ireland.
During his acceptance speech, Mr Izz Den - who lost a close friend last week in yet another attack - said the bombers often carry out ‘double taps’ meaning they deliberately target the White Helmets as they rush in to save the wounded. The White Helmets carry out their work “without any religious affiliation”.
“There is nothing good in the war except its ending,” said Mr Izz Den.
A spokesperson for the protesters, Daithi O’Riain, said he had objections to the White Helmet’s origins in the Middle East.
Full speeches, and report in next week’s Tipperary Star.