Medical Personnel At Risk of Torture and Arrest in Syria

The Syrian regime is conducting a battle of remorseless terror and tyranny against people wounded in demonstrations and towards the medical workers trying to treat them. The mere possession of drugs and basic medical supplies such as gauze is now deemed a crime by the regime, and is punishable by incarceration, torture and death.

Medecins Sans Frontieres cannot work directly in Syria. The organisation has been seeking official permission to aid the wounded for some time without success. They have been managing to treat patients outside Syria and are supporting doctor’s networks inside the country by providing medicine, medical supplies, surgical and transfusion kits.

“In Syria today, wounded patients and Doctors are pursued and risk torture and arrest at the hands of the security services, medicine is being used as a weapon of persecution.”-Medecins Sans Frontieres president Marie-Pierre Allie

The majority of the wounded dare not go to public hospitals from fear of being tortured or arrested. Sometimes a false name is used upon admittance to hide the patient’s identity and some doctors provide a false diagnosis to help patients elude security forces who search for patients with wounds consistent with those sustained in protests and demonstrations.

“It is critical that the Syrian authorities re-establish the neutrality of healthcare facilities. Hospitals must be protected areas, where wounded patients are treated without discrimination and are safe from abuse and torture. Medical workers do not risk their lives by choosing to comply with their professional code of ethics,” Marie-Pierre Allie said.

Makeshift treatment facilities have been set up by doctors trying to fulfill their duty to provide medical treatment. These have been set up in apartments, farms, anywhere they can, simple rooms outfitted as operating theatres for surgical procedures, hygiene and sterilization are rudimentary. Anesthesia is in short supply and high demand.

A Doctor requesting anonymity said the security services attack and destroy the mobile hospitals. They enter houses looking for medical supplies.”

Another said they are constantly being pursued by the security forces. Many doctors who have treated patients in their private hospitals have been arrested and tortured.”

The following are testimonies obtained by Medecins Sans Frontiers from patients treated outside Syria and doctors still in the country.

Some may find these testimonies distressing.

Patient 5

I was injured in December in a demonstration against the president. I was detained and tortured for 15 days. The last day they put a photo of Bashar Al Assad in front of me and told me to kneel to ‘God Bashar.’ I told them I only kneel to God and tore the photo. They went crazy as if I was tearing out their soul.

After having beaten me they tied my hand behind my back and took me to the Colonel.

“Don’t you know that those who insult the president have their hands cut off? he asked me.

He kicked me and I fell from the top of the stairs. Then they blindfolded me and spread and tied my hands like a crucifix. In detention, they hang us from the ceiling, insulted and beat us constantly. Some people had their fingernails torn out. Others were flogged or had their backs broken.

They make people lie on a special board, and then lifted the sides until their backs crack. They use all sorts of methods.

They broke my toes with a hammer and they taped a detonator with TNT to my hand. The detonator was attached to a long wire connected to a battery. Then they sent an electric current and it exploded. I lost three fingers, two-thirds of my other two fingers along with most of the palm of my hand.

There was a lot of torture in detention. There were 230 of us crammed into a small room. There were old people and doctors among us. I asked a doctor how he came to be there, he replied “just like you son”.

Patient 6

A sniper shot me in my right thigh, shattering the bones in my leg. I remember there were ambulances all around less than 20 meters away. I waved at them but they didn’t respond. Later we found out that the drivers were security not paramedics.

Patient 12

I wanted to help a wounded man but he refused. People had told him that injured people were killed at the hospital. We couldn’t do anything, the doctor in the village is pro-regime, and he refuses to treat the injured.


I am a Syrian doctor I was treating the wounded in Syria. At first when the demonstrations started, we were sending the wounded to public hospitals but then we were told that injured demonstrators were being tortured or left untreated. Many were killed.

Doctors are working in difficult security conditions and in tough medical conditions. It’s difficult the risk of being arrested is big, but despite that risk many doctors are putting their lives in danger in order to fulfill their medical oath.

The testimonies above are in no way exhaustive and are not the complete statements given.

Fiona Hammond is a journalist who graduated from the John Morris journalism academy. Fiona lives on the south coast of NSW Australia and writes human interest stories and opinions, about gardening, sustainability, fishing, the environment and our planet.