Turkish government closes Syrian-run hospital in Jarablus as doctors, residents demand explanation

By Hussein al-Khattab and Justin Clark

ALEPPO: Turkish authorities closed an opposition-run hospital in the city of Jarablus on Monday, amidst complaints from town residents and physicians that Ankara is overstepping its bounds in Syrian territory recently captured from the Islamic State.

The Jarablus Hospital provided free medical care to Jarablus’s 25,000 residents, local physician Adnan al-Hussein told Syria Direct Tuesday. Over the course of the past two months, the hospital’s staff performed 270 surgeries and over 20,000 health check-ups, he said.

All4Syria and other pro-opposition media outlets reported Tuesday that the hospital was closed due to “uncleanliness, a lack of medical supplies, and disputes between the hospital’s administration and the Turkish authorities.”

On Wednesday, several Jarablus residents and former physicians at the shuttered hospital told the Syrian Voice that the facility was closed due to “conflict” between doctors and Turkish aid groups.

Residents of the north Aleppo border town fear the hospital kerfuffle is indicative of rising Turkish influence in Syrian territory recently captured from the Islamic State.

“The staff was shocked to hear about the hospital’s closing,” one of the Jarablus Hospital’s doctors who asked to remain anonymous, told the Syrian Voice Tuesday. All but one of the Syrian Voice’s sources for this story requested anonymity, citing fears of reprisal from Turkish authorities and allied rebel groups which control Jarablus.

The hospital “had the support of the Syrian Interim Government and was run by the Aleppo’s Directorate of Health,” said the doctor, adding that Turkish authorities have yet to provide an explanation for the closure.

Free Syrian Army rebels backed by Turkish tanks and air power launched a campaign to expel the Islamic State from northern Aleppo province in late August. Over the past 12 weeks, the campaign, which began in Jarablus, has reportedly cleared “almost 1,600 square kilometers” of land, Ankara’s Anadolu Agency reported this week.

The presence of Turkish forces and the recent closure of the opposition-run clinic in Jarablus has some worried about Ankara’s expanding influence in north Aleppo, local residents told the Syrian Voice.


“Falling in line” with Turkey

“The clinic’s closure comes after conflict between Turkish aid groups and physicians,” another doctor, who also asked to remain anonymous, told the Syrian Voice. “Turkish influence is spreading, and they’re excluding anyone who doesn’t fall in line with them for alleged ‘security reasons.’”

According to the clinic’s official Facebook page, a note was placed on the clinic’s front door Tuesday announcing its immediate closure by the Turkish authorities in Arabic and Turkish.

On Wednesday, the building housing the clinic was transferred to the Association for Integration and Development (AID), a Turkish humanitarian organization.

AID is currently conducting interviews and training new staff, including several of the clinic’s previous employees. AID may reopen the clinic in early December under new management, a local doctor told the Syrian Voice.

In the meantime, the Turkish Balbi hospital is providing free medical services to Jarablus residents. Nevertheless, the now-closed clinic was staffed by local Syrians and provided a greater number of specialized services, an anonymous resident told the Syrian Voice.

“The problem is that opposition factions don’t have a say in local affairs,” another Jarablus resident told the Syria Voice.

The rebels are “totally submissive to the Turkish government.”


حسين الخطاب

مراسل صحفي في ريف حلب، درس في جامعة بيروت العربية، وعاد إلى سوريا مع اندلاع الثورة السورية لينخرط في النشاط الإعلامي، عمل كمراسل ومصور مستقل في سوريا.

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