PHR Urges Russian Medical Community to Protect Health in Syria


PHR joins medical colleagues around the world in urging the Russian medical community to demand that its government ease the health care crisis in Syria. Health care continues to be used as a weapon of war: despite efforts to safeguard medical staff and patients, Syrians continue to be illegally targeted and killed as they provide or seek medical care. PHR has documented the deaths of 757 health workers and 382 attacks on medical facilities throughout the conflict. Every attack amounts to a war crime, and, as physicians, we cannot stand by and allow them to continue with impunity. We ask that the Russian medical community join us in urging the Russian government to allow humanitarian access and medical evacuation of those trapped in besieged cities in Syria, and to end both indiscriminate and targeted attacks on civilians and civilian and medical facilities across Syria.

Joint public letter from medical, human rights and relief organizations to:

Russian Medical Society  Российскому медицинскому обществу

Union Pediatricians of Russia    Союзу педиатров России

Russian Medical Association    Российской медицинской ассоциации

Russian Red Cross Society    Российскому Красному кресту

Union of Medical Workers of Russia    Профсоюзу работников здравоохранения Российской Федерации

December 09, 2016

Dear members of the Russian medical community,

We write to you today as fellow medical professionals from several humanitarian and human rights organizations providing healthcare or documenting violations in Syria. We appeal to you, our colleagues in medicine, to join us in urgently addressing the healthcare crisis in Syria, especially in Aleppo. Healthcare continues to be used as a weapon of war in Syria, and civilians are paying the price.

On November 13 and 14, four hospitals west of Aleppo city were hit by airstrikes. They all suffered damage and were forced to suspend services. All were within 20 miles of each other, thus the region was left without a single functioning hospital. That same week, the few hospitals remaining in besieged eastern Aleppo city were also hit by airstrikes and forced to close. The lack of accountability for attacks on healthcare in Syria has created a dangerous new normal, yet heroic medical personnel continue to risk their safety to save the lives of others. Two weeks ago, all remaining hospitals in besieged eastern Aleppo City were forced to either close or operate at very low capacity after days of intensive targeted bombing. One of these hospitals, the Children’s Hospital, was treating children suffocating from a nearby chemical attack, only to be bombed while patients were still inside. The targeting of these hospitals, which treat women, children, and families, has left nearly 300,000 people trapped, among them 100,000 children and 151,000 women, and without access to healthcare, a human right.

Despite efforts to fortify facilities to safeguard medical staff and patients, Syrians continue to be illegally targeted and killed where they are seeking care. Physicians for Human Rights has documented the deaths of 757 health workers and 382 attacks on medical facilities throughout the conflict in Syria. Each of these attacks is a war crime, and together they amount to crimes against humanity. More than 90% of these attacks were carried out by Syrian government and Russian forces. Our medical doctors and surgeons have witnessed and treated those victims in their medical mission to Aleppo. They have testified about their findings to the United Nations Security Council in the presence of your country representative.

Eastern Aleppo city has become the modern Stalingrad. Stalingrad was under siege by Nazis for 160 days. It was described as much worse than hell. The people in besieged eastern Aleppo city have been living in similar conditions. They have been under siege for 100 days, are running drastically low on baby formula, food, fuel, medical supplies, and essential items for survival. Children and patients are dying because of extreme cold. Their last remaining stockpile of UN food rations was completely exhausted on November 13, there is no fully functioning hospital and 31,000 people have been displaced from their homes in the past week. There is the potential that hostilities will significantly worsen due to aerial bombardments by Russia and the Syrian government, as well as ground attacks by the government and its allied militias. Yet aid convoys have been continually blocked from entering the city by the Syrian government. Eastern Aleppo city is only one of the nearly 40 communities under siege in Syria, where basic essentials, including medical care, are being denied to over one million Syrians. These sieges must end and immediate humanitarian access must be provided. In the past few weeks, due to the siege and intensified bombing, the humanitarian situation in eastern Aleppo city is beyond description.

The health workers who continue to prioritize the lives of others above their own must be protected. As physicians, we have taken an oath to protect and preserve life. We appeal to you as medical colleagues, who can understand the dire circumstances of living without healthcare. These attacks on civilians, healthcare, and civilian infrastructure must end. We cannot stand by while war crimes are allowed to continue with impunity.

We ask you to urge your government to allow humanitarian aid into besieged eastern Aleppo city, to allow medical evacuation of the sick and injured and secure humanitarian corridors from eastern Aleppo city under the oversight of ICRC and UN, to pressure the Syrian government to allow delivery of aid to other besieged cities in Syria, and to end both indiscriminate and targeted attacks on civilians, hospitals and schools across Syria.

We urge you to exert your moral influence and discharge your humanitarian duty.

Thank you.


Dr. Ahmad Tarakji, President, Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS)

Dr. Zaher Sahloul, Associate Professor, University of Illinois at Chicago, Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS)

Dr. Majd Isreb, Foundation Chairman, Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS)

Dr. Samer Attar, Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS)

Dr. John Kahler, Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS)

Dr. Kerry J. Sulkowicz, Chair of the Board of Directors, Physicians for Human Rights

Donna McKay, Executive Director, Physicians for Human Rights

Ran Goldstein, Executive Director, Physicans for Human Rights – Israel

Dr. Holly Atkinson, Assistant Clinical Professor, Department of Medical Education, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

Dr. Satchit Balsari, Fellow, Harvard FXB Center for Health and Human Rights, Chief, Weill Cornell Global Emergency Medicine Division

Darren Barber, Project Manager, A Light for Aleppo

Dr. Michele Barry, Professor of Medicine and Tropical Diseases, Director of Center for Innovation in Global Health, Stanford University

Dr. Frederick M. Burkle, Jr., Senior Fellow & Scientist, Harvard Humanitarian Initiative

Dr. Gilbert Burnham, Professor of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University

Dr. Hilarie Cranmer, Harvard University

Dr. Patricia Davidson, Johns Hopkins University

Professor Francesco Della Corte, MD, Hon. Fellow EuSEM, Director, Dept. of Emergency Medicine, Azienda Ospedaliero Universitaria Maggiore della Carità

Dr. Dabney P. Evans, Emory University Center for Humanitarian Emergencies

Dr. Conrad Fischer, Associate Chief of Medicine for Educational and Academic Activities at SUNY Downstate School of Medicine

Dr. Eric Goosby, Professor of Medicine at UCSF, UN SG Special Envoy for TB

Reverend Dr. Harriet Harris, University Chaplain, University of Edinburgh

Hon. Keith Martin, MD, PC, Executive Director, Consortium of Universities for Global Health

Dr. Hani Mowafi, Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine, Chief, Section of Global Health & International Emergency Medicine, Director, GHIEM Fellowship, Department of Emergency Medicine, Yale University School of Medicine

Dr. Ronak B. Patel, Stanford University.

Dr. Annie Sparrow, Assistant Professor Global Health, Deputy Director Human Rights, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

Dr. Paul Spiegel, Johns Hopkins Center for Humanitarian Health, Johns Hopkins University

Dr. Johan von Schreeb, Associate Professor, Specialist in General Surgery and Disaster Medicine, Centre for Research on Health Care in Disasters, Global Health, Health System and Policy, Department of Public Health Sciences, Karolinska Institutet

Dr. Muhammad H. Zaman, Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor, Department of Biomedical Engineering and International Health, Boston University

Dr. Ketan Desai, President, World Medical Association

Dr. Ardis Hoven, Chair of Council, World Medical Association

Dr. Otmar Kloiber, Secretary General, World Medical Association

Imam Yahya Barry, Edinburgh Central Mosque

Professor Charlotte Clarke, University of Edinburgh

Dr. Kirsten Johnson, McGill University

Dr. Therese McGinn, Professor of Population and Family Health at CUMC, Director, RAISE

Dr. Rachel T. Moresky, Director of the sidHARTe Program, Population and Family Health, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, Director of International Emergency Medicine Fellowship, Emergency Medicine Department, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons

Leonard S. Rubenstein, Director, Program on Human Rights, Health and Conflict, Center for Public Health and Human Rights, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Health

Father Raphael Pavouris, Honorary Chaplain at the University of Edinburgh

Dr. Mark J. Sedler, Associate Dean and Professor of Psychiatry and Public Health, Stony Brook University

Alseeraj for Development and Healthcare

Independent Doctors Association (IDA)

Canadian International Medical Relief Organization (CIMRO)

Doctors Under Fire

Canadian International Medical Relief Organization (CIMRO)

Center for Public Health and Human Rights at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health


Syrian NGO Alliance:

Big Heart Foundation

Binaa Organization for Development

Ghiras Al Nahda

Ghiras Foundation for Child Care

Hand in Hand for Aid and Development

Ihsan for Relief and Development

Masrat – The Syrian Establishment for Human Care & Enhancement


Physicians Across Continents (PAC)

Social Development International (SDI)

Syrian Expatriate Medical Association (SEMA)

Sham Humanitarian Foundation

Syria Relief

Dr. Abdulsalam Daeif, Turkey Country Director, Syria Relief and Development (SRD)

Takaful Alsham Organization

Union of Relief and Medical Care Organizations (UOSSM)

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