- Global Voices - https://globalvoices.org -

“With a Nobel, but Without Peace”

Categories: Latin America, Middle East & North Africa, Colombia, Syria, Citizen Media, Politics, War & Conflict
Image: Netflix poster art for "The White Helmets" / modified by Kevin Rothrock

Image: Netflix poster art for “The White Helmets” / modified by Kevin Rothrock

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on October 7, 2016 for his efforts to put an end [1] to more than five decades of conflict between his government and the country's oldest insurgent group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

The win came as a surprise to many.

In a referendum held earlier this week, Colombians rejected Santos’ peace deal. [2] If the deal had passed the vote, it would have indeed marked an end to a war that has claimed more than 220,000 lives since 1958.

My dad says: with Nobel, but without peace

Thousands of kilometers away, Syria's Civil Defense volunteers, widely known as the ‘White Helmets [4]‘ because of their white helmets worn during rescue missions, were seen as the choice of many. They are seen as heroes in a war that has claimed more than 470,000 lives in five years.

Several high-profile publications  endorsed the White Helmets for the Nobel Peace Prize, including The Guardian [5] and Time [6] magazine. Many had hoped that giving the White Helmets the Nobel Peace Prize would not only give Syrians hope, but it might have given the White Helmets protections against airstrikes of the Assad regime and the Russian government.

As soon as the Nobel Peace Prize was announced, the White Helmets congratulated the president and people of Colombia.

The award for Santos excluded FARC commander Rodrigo Londondo, alias “Timochenko”, also a signatory of the failed accord. The Nobel Peace Prize committee emphasized that this prize also pays tribute to the people of Colombia.

You can hear the phone call between the Norwegian Nobel Committee committee and President Santos below:

Twitter was quick to question the award given to Santos for trying to bring peace to his country:

The recognition to peace that is yet to come is unbelievable, to some. Angelica Casallas, from Colombia, compared the win to Macondo, a fictional town in One Hundred Years of Solitude. The novel was written by Colombia's most famous writer Gabriel García Márquez.

Gabo (Gabriel García Márquez) won the Nobel for Macondo, Santos for governing it.

On Facebook, Robert Valencia [12], Colombian Global Voices author commented:

This is proof that Colombia is the cradle of Magical Realism. While the country is on the brink of (possibly) going to war again after the failed referendum, the President wins the Nobel Peace Prize.

Others used the famous meme that circulated after Miss Colombia was incorrectly called the winner of the Miss Universe pageant, earlier this year, to illustrate the controversy that could rise between the “No” supporters and the recently awarded president:

When you win the referendum / When they give the Nobel to Santos.

Some Twitter users, like Erik del Búfalo, showed relief that the award wasn't handed to the FARC as well:

At least they didn't give it to Timochenko too. In this time in humanity, one could expect this kind of stuff.

Meanwhile, Ivan Marquez, chief negotiator for the FARC, congratulated the president, saying:

We hope that the Nobel peace prize gives President Santos strength to give life to the final agreement and dignity for all Colombians.

There were those who were optimistic that the prize could boost the peace process:

The Nobel Peace Prize, as Seen from Syria

Countless people took to Twitter to express their love to the White Helmets, saying that they won the ‘hearts of the world’ even though they didn't win the Nobel Peace Prize. All of the following tweets, by Syrians and others, were retweeted by the White Helmets themselves.

Palestinian-Syrian caricaturist Hani Abbas [30] drew the following in honor of the White Helmets:

The White Helmets and the Nobel Peace Prize. Cartoon by Hani Abbas. Photo Source: Twitter.

The White Helmets and the Nobel Peace Prize. Cartoon by Hani Abbas. Photo Source: Twitter. [31]

Many had hope the prize would put the organization in a protective spotlight. UK-based activist and editor at Pulse Media [32] Idrees Ahmad [33] tweeted:

And indeed, the White Helmets’ center in Hama, in West-central Syria, was targeted today.

They also lost another volunteer in Daraa, southwestern Syria.