“Is she going to survive?” “Unfortunately, yes.”
July 18, 2016 8:23 AM   Subscribe

In the past five years, the Syrian government has assassinated, bombed, and tortured to death almost seven hundred medical personnel, according to Physicians for Human Rights, an organization that documents attacks on medical care in war zones. (Non-state actors, including isis, have killed twenty-seven.) Recent headlines announced the death of death of the last pediatrician in Aleppo, the last cardiologist in Hama. A United Nations commission concluded that “government forces deliberately target medical personnel to gain military advantage,” denying treatment to wounded fighters and civilians “as a matter of policy.”
THE SHADOW DOCTORS: The underground race to spread medical knowledge as the Syrian regime erases it. posted by the man of twists and turns (16 comments total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
This is a heart wrenching and well put together post. Thank you.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 8:57 AM on July 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

This is so much more than I can really comprehend.
posted by ChuraChura at 9:09 AM on July 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

There's none braver to me right now than medical staff in war zones. Holy cats.
posted by Kitteh at 9:20 AM on July 18, 2016 [5 favorites]

And bear in mind this kind of brutality was built into the Syrian government structure from the very beginning, from the time fugitive Nazis showed up to train their army and security apparatus.

This war just sped up the pace of the brutality and brought it up in the open. But the Palmyra prison was an orderly, institutionalized assembly line of this ghastliness, for decades, out of sight, out of mind.
posted by ocschwar at 9:22 AM on July 18, 2016 [6 favorites]

I heard Taub on NPR discuss his report-- it was one of the most powerful interviews I've ever heard. There's something about hearing a reporter choke up as he tries to represent what he's seen --and what the doctors refuse to leave because of their commitment and love for healing ... overwhelming.
posted by correcaminos at 9:24 AM on July 18, 2016 [4 favorites]

This is all so horrifying. Even if it's that's the word used in the NPR interview, "duty" seems so insufficient for what Abu Waseem and other medical staff are doing.
posted by mixedmetaphors at 11:33 AM on July 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

I notice one of the targets was a dialysis centre - for context if your dialysis centre is wiped out, all of the patients who use it will be dead within the week unless they can be taken on by another centre. They need to attend three times a week to stay alive.

If one of our units was destroyed in the UK we would have real problems reallocating patients - our trust's smallest dialysis unit has 80 patients, our largest has 450. I doubt Syria has any more empty slots than we do. It may not be as heroic as trauma surgery, but the dialysis nurses and technicians who kept that unit going (you don't really need doctors for the day to day stuff) are amazing people.
posted by tinkletown at 12:13 PM on July 18, 2016 [10 favorites]

Slight derail, but the Harris County hospital in Houston is also named Ben Taub, after a wealthy Houstonian. I know about it because I spent one of the worst Saturday nights/Sunday mornings of my life in the emergency room there with a dislocated shoulder waiting to be looked at as the staff attended to the stabbed drunk guys, the gunshot wound, and the lady with the screaming baby. Five hours later at 4am, I went home with my pain meds and my arm in a sling.

Don't know if the two Bens are related, however, because as far as I can tell the innertubes are silent on the topic of where the journalist/Voice singer is from.
posted by Mental Wimp at 12:44 PM on July 18, 2016

On topic, the insanity of war is starkly illustrated by the image of military forces bringing their might to bear on killing as many people as possible while medical personnel bravely bring their powers to bear on keeping them alive in spite of horrific injuries. Then the military, sensing an opportunity, turns its might on the medical personnel...
posted by Mental Wimp at 1:05 PM on July 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

That's not a new tactic - one of my friends is a UK naval doctor, and one of the first things they were told in basic training was to get rid of their medic insignia if they came under fire. If you kill an enemy medic they can't patch up any enemy casualties, so there's a disproportionate benefit to killing them. Apparently they get targeted a lot "accidentally on purpose".

Against the Geneva Convention of course, but that seems to get breached quite a lot these days. Of course she had signed up for that risk (and was well protected - she was in field hospitals which are usually some way back from the frontline), while the civilian doctors of Syria really didn't.

We had a talk from an army surgeon at one of our training days a couple of years back (on the topic of medical teamwork). The photos were truly distressing, even to experienced doctors. The squaddies were all so very young (they looked about 18), and they were all fully conscious and looked very very frightened. And then you looked again, and noticed that under all the blood and gore their pelvis was missing, or half of their head, or some equally important body part. Really sickening. It isn't something I could do.
posted by tinkletown at 2:25 PM on July 18, 2016 [7 favorites]

Medicine has a long history of co-evolving with war.

Thank you for posting this. I am pretty thick skinned and this is shocking.
posted by Michele in California at 4:59 PM on July 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

"Yeah but it's better for Assad to stay in place for stability, right guys?"
posted by iffthen at 6:00 PM on July 18, 2016

Heart wrenching article.

Given Russia's support for Syria, can anything reasonably be done to stop Assad? I hadn't fully realized what a butcher he was, until I read this.
posted by HighTechUnderpants at 11:00 PM on July 18, 2016

I hadn't fully realized what a butcher he was, until I read this.
posted by HighTechUnderpants at 1:00 AM on July 19

I get the feeling that he's about par for the course along with his father Hafez. I mean, barrel bombs. Need anyone say anything more?
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 1:48 AM on July 19, 2016

"Yeah but it's better for Assad to stay in place for stability, right guys?"

Yes. The choice is between Assad and ISIS, and ISIS is even more disposed to atrocity than Assad.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 11:34 AM on July 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

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