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Two Powerful Documentaries about Health Care Under Siege in Syria Receive Oscar Nominations

“For Sama” and “The Cave” depict the horrors of attacks on hospitals and the heroism of health workers in Syria

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) welcomes the 2020 Academy Awards nominations of For Sama and The Cave for best documentary feature. Both documentaries reveal how hospitals and other health facilities have been violently targeted in Syria, as well as the remarkable resilience of Syria’s health workers.

While both films focus with heart-wrenching detail on specific hospitals attacked in Syria, research by PHR underscores how these violations fit into a broader pattern of Syrian government targeting of health care facilities and personnel. Since March 2011, PHR has documented 588 attacks on 350 health facilities in Syria and the killings of at least 914 civilian medical personnel.

PHR has detailed the attacks on the Aleppo hospital depicted in For Sama and the hospital in Ghouta depicted in The Cave. Both are included on PHR’s map of attacks on health care in Syria.

PHR’s research attributes more than 90 percent of documented attacks on health facilities and personnel to the Syrian government and its allies, including Russia.

The Syrian government has also systematically targeted health professionals for arrest, detention, and torture, according to a PHR investigation published in December 2019.

PHR has been honored to partner with the health professionals and filmmakers working on and publicizing both documentaries. They have courageously collected footage and testimony of so many under fire in these brutal assaults on the most fundamental norms of international humanitarian law.

The following statement is attributed to Susannah Sirkin, Physicians for Human Rights director of policy:

“These profound and devastating documentaries offer a window into the Syrian and Russian governments’ brutal strategy of bombing hospitals and destroying health care for millions in Syria,” said Sirkin. “Physicians for Human Rights offers our heartfelt congratulations to the stellar teams behind both films, as well as to the courageous health workers whose lives and deaths they depict.”

“The delivery of health care has been effectively criminalized in Syria. Health workers providing care in line with medical ethics have endured bombardment, kidnapping, torture, and the deaths of loved ones and colleagues.”

“What you see in For Sama and The Cave are not isolated incidents. Physicians for Human Rights has documented 588 attacks on 350 separate health facilities and the killing of 914 medical personnel in Syria since March 2011. Ninety percent of these attacks were committed by the Syrian and/or Russian governments.”

“These attacks are part of a strategy of war that the Syrian government and its allies have employed against civilians since the early days of the conflict – one that they are currently deploying to deadly effect in Syria’s northwest.”

“We hope these documentaries and their well-deserved Oscar nominations shine a spotlight on the continued suffering of Syrian civilians and the urgent need for accountability for perpetrators. Please join us to help expose the truth about the criminal targeting of medical facilities in Syria.”

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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