By Ammar Hamou and Justin Clark
Demonstrators took to the streets in Madaya on Monday, demanding an end to the siege of the city while criticizing the United Nations and Red Crescent for being unresponsive to requests for aid.
“This protest is a step by the people to demand an end to the siege” says Husam Mahmoud, one of the protest’s organizers. “Our goal is to send a message saying ‘we don’t want aid to enter for a day and then be cut off for months–we want the siege broken.”
The catalyst for the demonstration was the killing of Muhammad al-Mawil, a 36-year-old father of two shot by a sniper as he was walking to his home on Madaya’s outskirts Saturday. Local doctors pleaded with the regime for al-Mawil to receive treatment outside Madaya, but they refused. When the doctors turned to the United Nations and Red Crescent, they were given no response says, Abdelwahhab Ahmad, one of the protest’s organizers.
Out of options, Madaya’s last doctors, a veterinarian and two dental students, operated on al-Mawil in the absence of a qualified surgeon or an equipped operating room–a first for Madaya’s sole operational hospital.
“Our operations are limited to Caesarean sections,” Dr. Muhammad Darwish tells the Syian Voice. “The operation on [al-Mawil] was the first of its kind here.”
Yet despite their efforts, the operation was unsuccessful and al-Mawil succumbed to his wounds three days after being shot. For Dr. Darwish, al-Mawil’s death comes as a direct result of Madaya’s lack of medical supplies and staff. The shortage of doctors is so pronounced that a veterinarian is currently the director of Madaya’s hospital, while its two other doctors are dentists who did not complete university, Dr. Darwish told the Syrian Voice.
In the hours following the announcement of al-Mawil’s death, protesters young and old gathered to demonstrate against the siege. Young students from Madaya raised signs that read “I want my rights entirely–no half-solutions”, “Laying siege to civilians is a coward’s weapon”, and “Break the siege on Madaya and al-Foua”.
One child held a sign asking “Now what?”.
Organizer Mahmoud says he and his ilk are embarrassed by the number of times they’ve pleaded for help with outside organizations. This time, they organized and launched the protest without coordinating with any local or international institution, relying only on the media to be their platform.
Madaya has been under siege since July 2015, its 40,000 inhabitants surrounded by at least 65 regime checkpoints as well as snipers and landmines, the latter of which have killed at least 190 residents since the beginning of the siege.