Syria: Bashar al assad, betraying his people but also the medical profession
A few years ago, I spent some time in Damascus, in a buoyant attempt to learn Arabic. It is a country that I have a great affection for, a collective sentiment by the many friends, from a myriad of countries, ethnicities and religions whom I was fortunate to meet there.
Whilst residing there one could be forgiven in thinking that all was well, or at least, that Syria was not as precarious as some of its neighbouring Middle-eastern countries.
This may seem quite preposterous and indeed laughable in hindsight but it is explicable. In the streets of Damascus one is often confronted with large signs of Assad proclaiming “I believe in Syria”. The signs are ubiquitous and are not the conventional image of a dictator in military attire but instead, a distinguished, suited and almost handsome looking man.
If one were to ask the local residents their thoughts on Assad, as I often did, they would swiftly pronounce “We love Assad” and perhaps, naively, it seemed genuine. The reality was that the Syrians I spoke with were more likely fuelled by trepidation, scared they would be found out by the secret police for speaking anything less than admiration, or mysteriously disappear, which was not an altogether unusual occurrence.
Incidentally, I phoned my former Arabic Tutor in Damascus a few weeks ago and she reiterated, in Arabic, the same assertion “We love Assad”… “There are no problems in Syria”…”The television is making the problems”.
The authentic devotion for Assad that I thought, erroneously, I had witnessed was not love, but legitimate fear.
The Arab uprising has catalysed Syrians to valiantly overcome the fear barrier, despite the death toll, which has been reported between 1700 to 2000.
The international community has been phlegmatic in condemning his actions and only yesterday called on Assad “to step aside” and not step down as Robert Fisk, astutely pointed out.
Bashar has not only his betrayed his people, who I sincerely believe are paragons of affection, generosity and loyalty; he has also betrayed his medical profession and flagrantly violated the Hippocratic Oath “to do no harm”.
Bashar, a medical doctor who had specialised in ophthalmology has also been deliberately targeting medical services.
Physicians for human rights (PHR), an independent non-governmental organisation have received reports of “violations of medical neutrality in Syria” and have called to for Assad’s government to discontinue its operation of “targeting medical facilities, health workers and their patients” .
The government security forces are in command of access to hospitals and many of the civilians who are injured requiring medical care are reluctant to seek hospital treatment for fear of being detained or tortured at hospital facilities, by government officials.
The limited hospital access, depleting blood supplies have been compounded by the dwindling numbers of physicians. According to Syrian physicians, it has also been reported that 134 doctors have either been detained or simply disappeared.
PHR reveal the deplorable report of a 43 year old Syrian physician who died after being tortured by the Syrian police. The incident, as narrated by his brother states “My brother was a peaceful, well-educated, secular physician who was respected by his peers internationally”.
In the distressing account he recalls how his brother was interrogated by the secret police after visiting Miami to attend a medical conference and later died during the interrogation.
In times of conflict, national doctors are crucial; as Hans Hogrefe articulates “When you attack a doctor, you’re attacking all the patients who depend on that doctor.”
It is apparent that Bashar Al Assad does not believe in the sanctity of his own medical profession, health or humanity and most certainly, neither does he believe in Syria.
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