In Syrian crackdown, doctors who treat protesters become targets themselves

February 2, 2012

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(AP/Hussein Malla)
Doctors treat a man injured in clashes between security forces and protesters in Daraa, Syria.

In Syria, a surprising constituency has gotten caught up in the conflict between the government and dissidents: ordinary doctors. As President Assad’s regime becomes more militarized and protesters take up arms, doctors are resorting to underground clinics to treat those hurt in the violence.

But the struggle to provide care is wrought with complications. With independent medical organizations like Doctors Without Borders barred from the country, individual doctors must deal with scores of patients on their own. Many underground clinics have only basic medical supplies. And because blood supplies are monitored by the government, many of those injured in the protests are bleeding to death without access to basic transfusions.

In the process of treating others, Syria's doctors have become government targets themselves. Many have been detained, harassed, deported and – according to some reports – killed. Worldview talks with Dr. Zahrer Sahloul, president of the Syrian American Medical Society. He’s trying to mobilize Syrian American doctors to help medical professionals in their home country.