Syria's Civil War Forces Doctors to Choose the Rebels or the Regime

12/19/2013
Map of Syria

Adnan Ismail worked as a doctor in a Syrian government hospital. But civil war led him to a farm field where he and friends labored nights in secret to build a makeshift rebel-run clinic.

For a year, Dr. Ismail helped dig walls and stairs to fashion an underground bunker that was eventually equipped for surgery, he said.

Dr. Adnan Ismail led a secret life tending to Syrian rebels and civilians hurt by government forces.

In wheat fields and olive groves, at private homes and in the backs of trucks, Syrian doctors like him have cobbled a health-care network of medical students, nurses and civilians to supplement hospitals lost in the conflict. Most of these workers aren't trained for the trauma injuries they see. They are short-handed, lack supplies and are targets of government forces. But without them, according to medical organizations monitoring the crisis, many more Syrians would have died in a conflict that has claimed an estimated 125,000 lives.

“I always requested from God an adventurous and fulfilling life,” said Dr. Ismail, a 29-year-old man of slight build who wears the neatly cropped beard common among Syria's rebels. “I think he may have taken me too seriously.”

Samer Attar, a Syrian-American orthopedic surgeon, saw some of this work firsthand during a leave from Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago to volunteer this fall at a hospital in the rebel-held section of Aleppo.

The full article continues at http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303330204579248333326432514 on the Wall Street Journal’s website.