Doctors Play God in Syria's 'Town of the Armageddon'

08/28/2014
Map of Syria

The scale of the disaster in Ghouta did not truly sink in until I saw the images streaming in on YouTube and Arabic news channels. These are the images that throttle the soul—children, dead, lying in rows among hundreds, their angelic faces a chilling contrast to the monstrosity that claimed their lives. Nothing in medical school prepares you for this.

Syrian doctors had been preparing for the worst for three years, treating victims of sniper attacks, shelling, barrel bombing, and even small scale chemical weapon attacks—with shamefully limited resources—all while living under fire since the democratic protests of 2011. The Syrian American Medical Society, my group, has been working to help them.

Ghouta’s fate seemed to have been written for it long before last year’s attack. It is a strategic area outside Damascus, then under the control of the moderate nationalist rebels. Before the crisis, it had a vibrant population of 2 million people, now depleted to about 800,000, due to relentless shelling and a suffocating siege by the regime. Local folklore says Ghouta is the site of the Armageddon, where an army of believers face the forces of evil before Judgment Day.

The doctors all told a similar story— a large number of panicking patients, extremely distressed women and children arriving by foot or carried by motorcycles and cars, collapsing on the floors of the emergency rooms, foaming from the mouth, coughing, convulsing, and gasping for air. All had pinpoint pupils, a sign of exposure to an organophosphoric agent, or nerve gas.

The full article continues at http://www.policyreview.eu/doctors-play-god-in-syrias-town-of-the-armageddon on the Policy Review website.

The Syrian American Medical Society is a steering committee member of the Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition.