Syrian Oscar nominee says he can't get to ceremony because of passport problem

Raed Saleh, head of the White Helmets, during his presentation "What is really happening inside Aleppo?" at the Humanitarian Hub during the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos on Jan 19, 2017.
Raed Saleh, head of the White Helmets, during his presentation "What is really happening inside Aleppo?" at the Humanitarian Hub during the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos on Jan 19, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIRUT (Reuters) - A Syrian cameraman and rescue worker whose documentary about the White Helmets Civil Defence group has been nominated for an Oscar will not attend the awards ceremony because Damascus has cancelled his passport, the group said on Sunday (Feb 26).

The White Helmets operate a rescue service in rebel-held parts of Syria, which have been subjected to fierce bombardment by the government and Russia's air force during the country's civil war that has levelled whole city districts.

Their film, nominated in the Oscars short subject documentary category, gives a glimpse into the daily lives of the volunteers.

Syria's government under President Bashar al-Assad has accused the group of being a front for Al-Qaeda and of faking footage of the aftermath of air strikes for propaganda purposes, charges the White Helmets deny.

Two of the rescue workers, their leader Raed Saleh and Khaled Khatib, who is also a cameraman, were given visas by the United States to visit the country for the Oscars' ceremony in Los Angeles on Sunday night.

However, in a statement early on Sunday, the White Helmets said that Saleh would not be able to leave his work because of the high intensity of air strikes while Khatib could not attend because Syria's government had cancelled his passport.

"The Syrian Civil Defence are grateful for the platform the film The White Helmets is providing for their humanitarian message to reach around the world," the statement said.