Waad al-Kateab, the director and star of the Oscar-nominated documentary For Sama, joined doctors and human rights advocates outside the United Nations today to call on Syria and Russia to stop bombing hospitals.
While al-Kateab read messages from doctors in the besieged Idlib province of Syria, three trucks displayed billboards with “STOP BOMBING HOSPITALS” and “SAVE IDLIB” in English, Russian, and Arabic. The trucks parked outside the United Nations headquarters before circling through Midtown Manhattan, including Times Square.
This mobilization was convened by a coalition of human rights and humanitarian organizations, including Amnesty International, Physicians for Human Rights, the Syria Campaign, and the Syrian-American Medical Society.
The Syrian government and its Russian allies are currently escalating their assault on Idlib province, including attacks on health facilities like the hospital in the town of Ariha – where airstrikes on Wednesday killed at least 10 people – causing a dire humanitarian crisis.
“As a mother, as a filmmaker, as just a human being, I’m asking every person all over the world to do something, to act for the Syrian people,” said al-Kateab.
The United Nations Secretary-General’s office is conducting an internal investigation into how clinics, hospitals, and emergency medical facilities have come under direct fire despite sharing their locations with the UN and parties to the conflict in an effort to avoid being targeted. The UN inquiry is a chance to document how civilian facilities were bombed, who was responsible, and how such attacks can be prevented, yet there are few indications that the inquiry will seek to provide these insights. PHR is calling on the United Nations to make the findings of this “Board of Inquiry” investigation public, and to name the perpetrators of the attacks.
“Russia and Syria: Stop bombing hospitals and end the atrocities against the Syrian people,” said Susannah Sirkin, PHR director of policy.
“UN Secretary-General António Guterres: Release the findings of the Board of Inquiry, name the perpetrators, and support accountability for attacks on health care in Syria,” said Sirkin.
Al-Kateab read the following statements from Idlib doctors to the group of assembled media and demonstrators:
“Being a medical worker in Syria is extremely challenging. I’ll never forget the day our hospital was targeted twice in one day. That day I was in the hospital. We had to pull ourselves together and keep going to save as many lives as possible.” – Dr. Mervet
“I hope in 2020, when I wake up in the morning and read the news, I don’t read about dismembered children. I hope our children will go back to school and live a normal childhood like any other child.” – Dr. Ikrem
“When we treat the displaced during one of our response efforts, we have mixed emotions. On the one hand, we are happy to provide medical services to our patients, but at the same time we are saddened by the fact that they were forced to leave their homes.” – Dr. Khaled al-Omar
Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to prevent mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.