Injured Syrian protestors are removed from beds as forces target hospitals

BMJ 2011; 343 doi: (Published 19 September 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;343:d5996
  1. Sophie Arie
  1. 1London

The International Committee of the Red Cross has condemned attacks on medical services in Syria after a local Red Crescent volunteer died from wounds received when his ambulance was fired on as he took an injured person to hospital.

“A Syrian Arab Red Crescent volunteer succumbed to his wounds almost one week after being injured in the course of performing his duties,” said Béatrice Mégevand-Roggo, the Red Cross’s head of operations for the Near and Middle East. “It is completely unacceptable that volunteers who are helping to save other people’s lives end up losing their own.”

Two other volunteers were injured in the incident in the city of Homs, the latest of several attacks on clearly labelled Red Cross or Red Crescent vehicles.

Disrespect for the principle of medical neutrality and the right to healthcare has previously been seen in Bahrain and Libya as regimes there struggled to quell popular uprisings. Syria is sealed off to outside observers, and human rights groups depend on reports from witnesses.

Syrian forces are reported to have taken control of most major hospitals and to be firing on entrances of other medical facilities, preventing access of patients and supplies. The charity Human Rights Watch has been told that injured protesters have been removed from hospital beds in Homs, which has seen some of the worst clashes during the six month uprising.

A doctor at the city’s al-Barr Hospital told Human Rights Watch, “When we tried to help the wounded who needed urgent medical care the security forces pushed us back, saying these were criminals and rapists. They were beating the wounded as they moved them out of the hospital.” Some patients were removed from operating theatres while under anaesthetic.

Witnesses have also reported seeing Syrian forces seize dead and injured protesters from two hospitals in the suburbs of Damascus and firing on their relatives as they gathered outside to retrieve the dead and wounded. Activists say that the regime is seizing bodies to prevent families from holding funerals, which often develop into public protests.

A group of Syrian doctors has reported that at least 134 doctors have been detained by the government or have disappeared, the human rights organisation Physicians for Human Rights said.

There have also been reports of doctors in state run institutions who are Alawites, members of the same minority Muslim sect as the ruling Assad family, having denied treatment to injured protesters or deliberately mistreating and abusing them.

Sanctions against Syria and heavy condemnation of the actions of the regime of Bashar al-Assad by governments worldwide have failed to stem the violence. Human rights groups are pressing for a United Nations Security Council resolution to allow international monitors into the country.


Cite this as: BMJ 2011;343:d5996