Gandhi Peace Award Ceremony, Nov. 17

by Stanley Heller, PEP Administrator

Promoting Enduring Peace has been holding back on its ceremony for this year’s honorees, Dr. Zaher Sahloul and Mayson Almisri, in hopes that we could have a big event in an auditorium, but since the pandemic shows no sign of letting up the PEP Board decided to hold the event online. It will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 17, exactly two weeks after Election Day. The time has not yet been decided.

This year we’ve chosen two people of Syrian origin to hon-or the work of Syrian doctors and Syrian rescue workers.

Syrian-American Zaher Sahloul was a longtime Senior Advisor to the Syrian American Medical Society, SAMS. He is currently the president of MedGlobal which sends teams of doctors and nurses to war and disaster zones from Ecuador to Lebanon. He works as a pulmonary specialist at a hospital in Chicago and is involved in treating COVID-19 patients. He himself fell victim of the virus and suffered from it for weeks. He’s been to Syria many times and has worked with the doctors whose medical facilities were bombed with abandon by Assadist and Russian forces.

Mayson Almisri is a member of Syrian Civil Defence, better known as the White Helmets. The group started informally as people who rushed to bombed-out buildings to try to save the injured and to recover bodies. As the years passed the group became more organized and received training and funds from foreign NGOs and governments including that of the U.S. The White Helmets try to video and photograph their rescues as a way of alerting the world to the viciousness of the regime, its allies and their militaries. For that they are demonized by the Assad regime and slandered as “terrorist supporters.” The rescue workers have rescued some 100,000 people during the last 9 years of war and have been the subject of several films.

In addition to the acceptance speeches, we hope to have art, music and song to entertain and inspire. Holding it on Zoom allows for more international participation. If you’d like to work on the project contact office@pepeace.org or call (202) 573-7322.

Awarding Syrians the Gandhi Peace Award

Stanley Heller, PEP Administrator

Promoting Enduring Peace (PEP) will give its 2020 Gandhi Peace Award to two people born in Syria. One is Dr. Zaher Sahloul, a Syrian-American, the other is Mayson Almisri, a refugee living in Canada. The award has been given out since 1960 by PEP, a peace and environmental organization. It comes with a medal made of peace bronze forged from the metal of retired nuclear weapons and with a $5,000 cash prize that will be shared by the two honorees.

The Board of PEP decided that our best contribution this year would be to give the prize in hopes it would help reorient the peace movement and the Left on an issue where many progressives have gone astray. It’s said that most generals prepare for their last war. Most of the peace movement has done the same with Syria, making simple-minded comparisons with the U.S. war against Iraq. Most have ignored the agency of Syrians and their efforts for a democratic uprising. Our award this year is to the medical workers and rescuers of Syria.

Dr. Zaher Sahloul is past president of the Syrian-American Medical Society which has built and rebuilt hospitals in Syria, in recent years underground or in caves. He’s now president of Medglobal which helps not just in Syria, but in 14 countries. He’s a pulmonary specialist in Chicago where he’s currently helping treat patients with the COVID-19 virus. He caught the virus himself, but after weeks of isolation is back at work.

Mayson Almisri is from Deraa, where the mass demonstra-tions began in Syria in 2011. She is a leader in the Syrian Civil Defense, known in the West as the White Helmets. They are the heroes who dig out survivors and bodies from under the rubble of Assad’s or Russian bombs. They have enraged the Assad regime by making videos of their work, showing devastation caused by the barrel bombs. During the recent ceasefire, they work at disinfecting, hoping to ward off the virus inside the remnant of Idlib province.

We always present the award in a big public ceremony, but because of the coronavirus we cannot make plans for the date or location of the ceremony.