Three medical workers in Syria were injured in June when a bomb was deliberately dropped on their hospital, destroying its intensive care unit. Soon after, another hospital became a target – government forces raided the facility, destroyed the equipment, and harassed medical staff solely for doing their job of treating the wounded.
I believe the vast majority of us became medical professionals for the right reason—we wanted to follow Hippocrates’ admonition “to cure sometimes, treat often, comfort always.” As a person deeply committed to human rights, I deplore the violence that grips Syria. I mourn the thousands who have died. as a doctor, I must also specifically address the deliberate attacks waged by government forces on medical professionals and patients.
In the last thirteen months, at least 8000 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.
In a statement issued on Friday, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced that the Obama administration will designate Syria for Temporary Protected Status (TPS), offering Syrians currently living in the US a chance to stay in the country while the Assad regime continues its brutal suppression of the pro-democracy movement.
The Syrian government escorted a team of UN technical staff into the country this week. Although this ostensible show of glasnost may look encouraging, restricting UN agencies’ access will result in an unreliable assessment of Syria’s humanitarian needs.