The news of his death hit the humanitarian community like an earthquake. James Le Mesurier, founder of Mayday Rescue in Jordan and a key backer of the White Helmets in Syria, was found dead on the street near his apartment in Istanbul at around 4:30 a.m. on Monday, Nov. 11. Police said his fatal injuries suggested he’d either fallen or had been pushed from a balcony in the apartment where he lived.
As I write these words, the investigation is ongoing. Some wonder if his death was orchestrated by Russian or Syrian government operatives who continually slandered the work he was doing with the White Helmets. He was a major thorn in the side of Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president who the White Helmets were exposing (with their GoPro cameras attached to their helmets) as the instigator of barrel bombing and chemical attacks against the Syrian people.
There’s a lot about this terrible loss that we don’t know. But here’s what we do know. James Le Mesurier was devoted to the Syrians who the White Helmets were trying to save from the brutal, inhumane attacks they endured. He was a dedicated humanitarian who told his tales with the art of a historian and the passion of a raconteur. He was a beloved dad to his little daughters. He was dashing and daring and a bit of a rogue.
I met him while I was on assignment for this magazine, telling the dramatic story of the rescue of the White Helmets out of Syria in the summer of 2018. It was James who told me that Canada had masterminded the rescue. He gave me his undivided attention and all the time it took to get the story right, because to James Le Mesurier, right was everything. Just as the men and women who wore the White Helmets were, in his view, the epitome of courage, James was to them the definition of justice and compassion. May the world know this man’s legacy: his will to right the wrongs. And may he rest in peace.
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