ResourcesPress Release

Physicians for Human Rights Honors Syrian Doctors, Two Philanthropists for Their Work

PHR Devotes Second Annual Gala to the Syrian People

For Immediate Release

Two Syrian doctors and the philanthropists Ayman and Sawsan Asfari were honored Monday evening, April 18, for their work supporting the people of Syria at a gala hosted by Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) in New York.

PHR awarded the 2016 Physicians for Human Rights Award to Syrian physicians Dr. Lena* and Dr. Nour* for their brave work treating patients and documenting torture and sexual violence during the Syrian conflict.

“Each has witnessed unspeakable horrors and suffered tragic personal loss,” said PHR Executive Director Donna McKay. “But both say the risk is worth it – to make sure everyone who needs care gets it. And to reveal the truth of what has happened to their country.”

PHR has documented the deliberate targeting of medical professionals and facilities throughout the five-year conflict. “My colleagues and I fear arrest as much as bombs,” said Dr. Lena, who accepted the award for herself and Dr. Nour. “Despair is everywhere around us, and yet I have hope because of the resilience and strength I have seen in my patients and because of my work with PHR.”

In addition to honoring Dr. Lena and Dr. Nour, PHR also presented the 2016 Physicians for Human Rights Award to Ayman and Sawsan Asfari, founders of the Asfari Foundation, which educates and empowers youth, strengthens civil society, and provides humanitarian relief, particularly in Syria.

“Ayman and Sawsan Asfari are working to rebuild civil society in Syria, especially among young people,” said PHR’s McKay. “We are also grateful to have their support for our efforts to train more and more doctors in Syria to document human rights abuses.”

Proceeds from the gala, held at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Frederick P. Rose Hall in New York City, will support PHR’s work to ensure that mass atrocities and severe human rights violations are investigated and documented, and that perpetrators are brought to justice.

Some 280 guests joined the gala this year, including former New York governor Eliot Spitzer, real estate and media luminary Mort Zuckerman, photographer Platon, Bonobos CEO Andy Dunn, filmmaker Oren Moverman, and writer Andrew Solomon, among other supporters and friends of PHR.

About the honorees:

  • Dr. Lena and Dr. Nour were honored for their heroic work as Syrian medical professionals. Every day, they risk their lives – and often those of their families – in order to care for the sick and wounded and to document human rights abuses. The Syrian conflict has seen unprecedented attacks on medical personnel and facilities. Since the start of the crisis in 2011, PHR has documented the deaths of more than 730 medical workers and more than 350 attacks on health facilities in Syria.
  • The Asfari Foundation is a London-based charitable organization that educates and empowers young people, strengthens civil society, and provides relief in the Levant with a focus on Syria, Ayman Asfari’s birthplace. Founders Ayman and Sawsan Asfari envision a world where educated, tolerant citizens work together for inclusive, productive, open societies under the rule of law.

    *Due to security concerns, these are pseudonyms.

    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.

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