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Daraa doctors treat wounded “far from the eyes of the regime”

Dr. Abu Abdullah al-Hourani is an obstetrician-gynecologist who works at several field hospitals in southern Daraa province. He talked to the Syrian Voice’s correspondent in Daraa about how he started to practice medicine during the revolution in secret, smuggling wounded patients from place to place so they weren’t executed.

After graduating medical school in 2011, Dr. Abu Abdullah worked at several hospitals in his birthplace Inkhil city and the city of Jasim.

“The revolution has suffered from a lack of doctors since it began,” Dr. Abu Abdullah told the Syrian Voice. 

“Some doctors purposefully avoided administering first aid to the wounded, or left Syria for other countries.”

Abu Abdullah worked in Syrian government hospitals and clandestinely treated rebels until he was fired from his job in 2013, after the regime learned he was treating both opposition fighters and protesters injured during peaceful demonstrations in the Houran region of Daraa.

“The regime considers every wounded patient to be a terrorist who doesn’t deserve to be treated…[so we] treat the wounded in cellars, and in narrow, closed-off neighborhoods, in houses far from the eyes of the regime. We’re afraid that the injured will be executed and the doctor forced to pay for his crimes.” 

The presence of medical equipment was proof that doctors were treating wounded civilians early in the revolution. So doctors hid their instruments in hard to reach areas, afraid that the regime would find and confiscate them, in addition to the fact that medical supplies are “rare currency” that is hard to replace, said Dr. Abu Abdullah.

As the revolution progressed doctors began to establish and develop informal medical points that turned into field hospitals. Dr. Abu Abdullah and a number of other doctors established the Syrian Martyrs hospital in 2013 in Inkhil city, and al-Radwan hospital in Jasim city in the northwest Daraa countryside.

He worked for a year in the hospitals, then returned to his work as an obstetrician-gynecologist, but continues to provide first aid when residential areas are targeted and large numbers of casualties come in.

Dr. Abu Abdullah treats between 70 and 80 cases a day between the field hospitals and his private clinics. He conducts an average of 24 surgeries a month, and doesn’t enjoy a weekend, which mirrors the lives of other doctors who have stayed in rebel-held areas.

Regime warplanes conducted airstrikes last Sunday on the al-Radwan hospital that Dr. Abu Abdullah helped to establish, killing 10 people including a doctor, nurse, four women and children.

“Warplanes targeted the hospital directly with three missiles, which destroyed the fourth floor of the hospital, the generator room, emergency room, my car and the administrative head’s car,” the hospital director told the Syrian Voice.

“Ten people died, including the administrative head and the hospital pharmacist. Thirty people were wounded including myself,” he said.

“Al-Radwan hospital was extremely important in the area because all kinds of specialists worked there.”

“Some medical organizations have promised to rebuild the hospital but haven’t sent us anything until now. We have two choices: either rebuilding the hospital, or closing it and distributing personnel among the other hospitals in the area.”

The regime arrested 220 doctors in Daraa province from the beginning of the revolution until last April, according to the Syrian Human Rights Committee. Some were released and others remain in prison or have met an uncertain fate. 

Daraa province’s first doctor to fall victim to the regime was Ali Ghasab al-Mahamid, when regime forces assassinated him on March 22, 2011 as he was providing first aid to people in the al-Umri mosque. Dr. al-Mahamid was killed along with all of his accompanying staff.

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