Raed Saleh, the leader of the Nobel Peace Prize-nominated Syrian rescue group the White Helmets — and subjects of the Oscar-nominated Netflix original documentary of the same name — announced Friday that he will travel to the U.S. in order to attend the Oscars in Los Angeles at the end of the month.
Saleh’s announcement comes on the heels of weeks of uncertainty over his ability to travel to the U.S. and attend the awards, as the battle over President Donald Trump’s immigration and travel ban on seven Middle Eastern and North African countries, including Syria, has unfolded in the courts.
“We are eagerly looking forward to coming to the Oscars,” Saleh said in making his announcement. “It will give us an important platform for the voices of Syrian children and women trapped under the rubble as a result of the airstrikes and artillery shelling, and for the voices of thousands of displaced Syrians who have been forced from their homes.”
“The White Helmets” director Orlando von Einsiedel and producer Joanna Natasegara expressed their joy in a joint statement: “We are utterly delighted at the prospect of Raed Saleh, the head of the White Helmets, and Khaled Khatib joining us on the red carpet at the Oscars. The White Helmets are among the most inspiring humanitarians we have ever known and it is the greatest honour to share a global platform where their incredible work can be recognised.”
“I was 16 when the revolution started,” Khatib writes. “In the first few years of the uprising I saw a lot of foreign photojournalists and TV crews come to document what was happening in my city of Aleppo. I watched them, dreaming that I could do that: tell the story of my city and my people. When I saw the work of the White Helmets, I knew that was the story of Syria I wanted to tell to the world.”
The 89th Annual Academy Awards air on Sunday, February 26 at 8pm ET/5pm PT.