Syria Civil Defence members, also known as the White Helmets, staged Monday and Tuesday (September 18th) protests to condemn the targeting of vital rescue and medical centres in opposition-held areas in northern Syria.
Protesters took to the streets in rural Idlib, Hama and Aleppo and held up banners calling on Russia and the Syrian regime to stop their attacks against humanitarian workers in those areas.
"White Helmets and humanitarian workers are not targets," one banner said.
"Protecting medical personnel is everyone's responsibility," read another; and "Al-Assad and Russia chemicals threaten the lives of millions of children."
"The repeated airstrikes on Civil Defence centres by Russian and Syrian aircraft and the shelling that many rescue and paramedic teams have come under while carrying out their duties drove Civil Defence members to stage the protests," said Essam al-Saleh, a member of the Syria Civil Defence in Idlib.
Local civil society organisations, doctors and teachers also joined in the protests, he told Diyaruna.
The protest held in rural Aleppo was "remarkable as many active doctors and a number of teachers participated in it", he said, noting that they all co-operate to alleviate the suffering of civilians in the region.
The signs raised during the protests condemned the targeting of vital rescue facilities, he said, and called on the international community to protect civilians and children.
"The purpose of these protests is to pressure the international community to provide protection for Civil Defence personnel and doctors after recent rumors accused the White Helmets of co-ordinating with terrorists to stage a fake chemical attack [in Idlib]," he said.
These efforts aim to give Russian and Syrian forces a cover to target the White Helmets as a legitimate military target, al-Saleh said.
"Civilians also joined in the protests to show their appreciation for the role the White Helmets play," he said, which is not limited to rescue, paramedic and firefighting operations.
They also rehabilitate roads, educate citizens about various safety issues and hold special events and activities for children, he said.