At a hospital in the Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun, Dr. Zakariya had just started an early morning shift when dozens of patients began streaming in. It was a scene of chaos: patients struggling to breathe, vomiting, convulsing, foaming at the mouth, and losing consciousness.
As soon as he arrived on the scene, Bashar – a first responder with the Syrian Civil Defense or White Helmets – knew that this attack was unlike anything he had ever encountered.
For more than thirty years, we at Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) have maintained that the ability to obtain essential curative and preventive medical care is indeed a human right protected by international humanitarian law.
On March 13, I traveled to Şirnak as part of a delegation of doctors, lawyers, and supporters from Turkey and around the world to witness the trial of Dr. Serdar Küni. A well-known doctor from the region, Dr. Küni is on trial for treating patients during the unrest last year in his hometown of Cizre.
Last month, the only dialysis center in Douma – a besieged town east of the Syrian capital, Damascus – ran out of supplies and was forced to close. Within two weeks, two of its 30 patients had died of kidney failure. They succumbed to a chronic illness, but the Syrian government contributed to their deaths. Last year, the Syrian government repeatedly withheld humanitarian aid from Douma, whose nearly 150,000 residents have been under siege by Syrian government forces since 2013.