Chicago Doctors Risk Arrest, Torture to Aid Dire Medical Care Void in Syria

03/12/2015
Map of Syria

A humanitarian report to be released Thursday addresses the dire medical situation in Syria and reports how doctors from all over the world—including here in Chicago—are being arrested and tortured simply for trying to save lives.

“This is my fifth visit into Aleppo which is considered one of the most dangerous cities in the world, especially for healthcare workers,” said Chicago-area critical care specialist Dr. Zaher Sahloul.

Sahloul recently made the risky trek from Turkey into Syria by ambulance, traveling on back roads, through various checkpoints, past decimated buildings and dangerously close to Islamic State fighters.

“The Syrian regime they have no respect for ambulances or doctors,” said Sahloul, who heads the Syrian American Medical Society, a non-profit humanitarian organization established in 2007. “Imagine that you are treating your patients but you’re caught and that you’re tortured by your government, because you are treating your patients. So this is something that is horrifying.”

The Syrian Government or regime does not want doctors to provide medical care to those who oppose the regime. It’s also considered a crime to treat anyone in opposition-controlled areas.

According to the report by the Center for Public Health and Human Rights, Johns Hopkins and the Syrian American Medical Society, there have been 175 attacks on separate medical facilities in Syria and 600 healthcare workers killed.

As a result, a secret healthcare system has emerged. There are field hospitals in undisclosed locations and medical facilities built underground—protected from daily barrel bombs and heat seeking missiles only by sandbags. There is no running water in many facilities and limited electricity. If a doctor is caught working in one these facilities, the punishment ranges from arrest to torture and even death.

The full article continues at http://www.nbcchicago.com/news/local/Chicago-Doctors-Syrian-War-Hospital-295954681.html on NBC Chicago’s website.