Syrian Medics At The Frontline

In the last thirteen months, at least 8,000 Syrian civilians have died in a brutal government crackdown according to the UN. Medical professionals who dare to treat the injured have also found themselves in the line of fire.

Although exact numbers are unavailable, PHR has acquired the names  and photos of 56 Syrian medics killed in the violence, often for providing medical treatment to injured protestors or  to civilians denied medical treatment in government hospitals. Twenty of the medics were killed in Homs, and the the other attacks occurred in Dara’a, Aleppo, Hama, Deir al-Zour, and Idlib, the cities that have experienced the worst violence.

Medical professionals have an ethical duty to treat the injured regardless of race, religion, or politics. For Syrian medics, to fulfill this duty is to risk death at the hands of the regime. Their deaths are not accidental, but rather the result of targeted killings intended to disrupt citizens’ ability to get medical help.

Syrian regime forces have targeted medical professionals for treating patients, both at public hospitals and through the makeshift field clinics that medics have set up in homes and farms to care for injured civilians. One doctor told PHR that he fled the country after he was interrogated multiple times by regime forces. He reported that any doctor or nurse involved in treating the injured faced torture and even death.

Some medical professionals have been killed when security forces shelled their homes; others have been executed by snipers. Dr. Abdulrahim Alalmer was shot in the Alrastan hospital in Homs while treating wounded civilians. Pharmacist Maad Alhadiz was shot in the head by the security forces that stormed his pharmacy in Homs. Hakam Drak Siba, a paramedic with the Syrian Red Crescent, was shot and killed while driving injured patients to a hospital.

Security forces have also tortured medics to death. These victims include Mahmoud Ahmed Alrashidat, a nurse from Dara’a, and Red Crescent medic Assad Al Jamaan, who died shortly after being released from detention.

Medical students have been targeted as well. Abdulrazzaq Al-Raid Abdulrazzaq was only 20 years old when he died at the hands of security forces in Deir Al-Zour, and Mohammed Dirar Attar, a dentistry student from Aleppo, was shot in the eye.

One doctor from Homs who fled Syria told PHR that the regime was also killing eyewitnesses to these crimes to hide their culpability. He reported that, in Homs, he witnessed government attacks against the private hospital and makeshift clinics. 20 of the 56 medics identified by PHR were killed in Homs. This doctor said that all of the eyewitnesses have been killed, a fact that has left him feeling hopeless about any possibility of accountability.

PHR denounces Syrian government’s attacks on doctors and other medical professionals, which violate the principle of medical neutrality. Security forces must stop assassinating, detaining, and torturing Syrian medical professionals whose only crime is fulfilling their ethical duty and providing unbiased medical care during a time of crisis.

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