Middle East News
SIDEBAR: MSF: Syria using medicine as "weapon of persecution"
Feb 8, 2012, 13:42 GMT
Paris - International medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors without Borders) on Wednesday accused Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime of using medicine as a 'weapon of persecution' in its bloody crackdown on the opposition.
MSF said that testimony gathered from doctors in Syria and wounded patients treated outside the country pointed to a crackdown by the regime on the provision of urgent medical care.
'In Syria today, wounded patients and doctors are pursued and risk torture and arrest at the hands of the security services,' MSF president Marie-Pierre Allie said in a statement.
'Medicine is being used as a weapon of persecution,' she charged.
Many of the wounded did not dare seek treatment in public hospitals, for fear of being arrested or tortured by security forces, who comb hospitals looking for people with injuries suffered during demonstrations, MSF said.
A small number managed to smuggle out to a neighbouring country for treatment.
But most were forced to seek treatment in clandestine hospitals set up 'in apartments, on farms and elsewhere'.
Hygiene and sterilization conditions in these mobile hospitals were 'rudimentary,' anaesthetics were in short supply and the doctors running them lived in fear of being raided, MSF said.
The health workers working in secret find it hard to treat major trauma cases, provide post-operative care, MSF said, adding that they cannot get blood from the central blood bank, which is controlled by the Defence Ministry and is the only supplier in the country.
The mere fact of possessing drugs or dressings was treated as a crime, it said.
'We are constantly being pursued by the security forces,' MSF quoted a doctor as saying. The doctor said a number of his colleagues who had treated the wounded in private hospitals had been arrested and tortured.
MSF called on al-Assad's government to end the violence against the wounded and those trying to care for them. 'It is critical that the Syrian authorities re-establish the neutrality of healthcare facilities,' Allie said.
MSF does not operate directly inside Syria. The organization said it had been looking for permission to work in the country for several months, without success.