Charity donations in name of UK doctor killed in Syria rise beyond expectationsBMJ 2013; 346 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.f3592 (Published 03 June 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f3592
A call for donations to pay tribute to a British doctor killed while volunteering in Syria has so far raised over £58 000 (€68 000; $88 000), which the charity he worked for will use to set up a field hospital in his name.
Isa Abdur Rahman, a 26 year old from London, was killed in Syria on 22 May when the secret hospital he was working in was bombed. The doctor, who qualified at Imperial College London, had been working in Syria with the British organisation Hand in Hand for Syria for the past year.
The charity said it believed that the facility, which was treating injured civilians in the northwestern city of Idlib, was targeted by government forces. Two civilians were also killed.
The charity’s chairman, Faddy Sahloul, described the young volunteer, who was of Indian origin and had learnt to speak enough Arabic to communicate with Syrians, as “one of the bravest and most dedicated people I have met.”
Within 14 hours of the announcement of his death a donation page set up on the JustGiving website in Rahman’s name (www.justgiving.com/for-Isa) had raised £7000 to buy an ambulance for Hand in Hand for Syria. By Monday 3 June the total stood at £58 620, and the money will now be used instead to allow the organisation to open a field hospital in the city of Homs in western Syria.
In Syria’s escalating conflict medical facilities have been targeted and health workers killed, arrested, and intimidated, so charities do not recommend that volunteers go there. Last year another British doctor, Abbas Khan, was detained while working in a hospital in Aleppo.1 The UK Foreign Office, which has no representation in Syria, has so far not been able to secure Khan’s release.
The few international charities operating in the country are mainly working in makeshift, clandestine facilities because state run hospitals have been destroyed or are too dangerous. Many of the country’s own medical professionals have left the country.
Rahman’s death comes amid international calls for greater protection for health workers worldwide, who are increasingly being targeted in conflicts, particularly uprisings in Arab countries.
A bill was introduced in the United States in May aimed at protecting health workers. The Medical Neutrality Protection Act of 2013, which was supported by the US group Physicians for Human Rights, would require governments to respect the concept of medical neutrality and to not interfere with health services during conflicts or civil unrest. The bill’s passage would mean that the US would withhold military assistance from violator countries and impose visa bans on individuals held responsible. It would also encourage the US to create a special rapporteur on medical neutrality and include the topic in the US State Department’s annual report on human rights.
Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f3592