With Donald Trump’s travel ban stalled, White Helmets leader Raed Saleh has announced that he will attend the Academy Awards on Feb. 26.
Saleh will be representing The White Helmets at the ceremony — the nominated Netflix short documentary that spotlights the Nobel Peace Prize-nominated rescue group.
He and cinematographer Khaled Khatib have obtained visas to travel to the U.S. to attend the awards show.
“We are eagerly looking forward to coming to the Oscars,” said Saleh, in a statement. “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.
Joanna Natasegara, the doc’s producer, said she’s thrilled at the prospect of Saleh and Khatib being able to attend — but she’s not without apprehensions.
“There are a lot of different messages being put out by the administration, so of course things could change,” Natasegara told realscreen. “We remain cautious, but we’re ready to welcome [Saleh and Khatib] when they reach U.S. soil.”
The news follows weeks of uncertainty over the pair’s ability to travel to the U.S., as the battle over the executive order limiting access to the country by citizens from seven Middle Eastern and North African countries, including Syria, has unfolded in the courts.
But despite tense circumstances, Natasegara noted that the message behind White Helmets is ultimately one of hope and peace.
“[The Academy Awards] gives us such an incredible platform for the work for the White Helmets to be recognized and celebrated,” she said. “In this particular moment, when tensions are so high, we feel very strongly that having Syrian voices attend events like the Oscars does even more to spotlight the issue.”
The White Helmets is nominated in the Oscars short subject category. It follows the work of the volunteer group, who brave falling bombs to rescue civilians from Syria’s civil war.
White Helmets was produced by Grain Media and Violet Films and acquired by Netflix.