Ahmad Tarakji writes: Doctors in my group on the ground in Syria [Syrian American Medical Society] have been reviewing the symptoms of the affected patients and medical personnel from the recent attacks. We are worried that a new phosphorus chemical agent is being used in chemical weapons, in addition to the identifiable chlorine. Some of the patients have exhibited symptoms similar to the effects of a nerve gas: pinpoint pupils, foaming at the mouth and the loss of consciousness, slow heart rate, slow breathing, vomiting and muscles spasms.
In these unimaginable situations, doctors often face a terrible decision: Should I run for my life or stay with my patients? As doctors, we have one duty: saving lives, even under the worst and most dangerous conditions.
Dr. Darwish [a victim of a chlorine attack in Hama on March 25] and many medical personnel and emergency workers have been killed in line of duty. They are heroes, and their stories are a testament to the courage and dedication of Syrian health workers. How many more stories must we hear before decisive, meaningful action is taken to end these crimes?
The world has done little to protect civilians and health workers crying out for action and attention. We, as civilized communities, must rethink how to match our values, principles and stated goals with our actions.
Over the past six years, humanitarian organizations have relentlessly pursued comprehensive documentation of war crimes. They have trained our staff to collect and catalog samples of fabric, water, skin and dirt. They have taken countless photographs and collected testimonies of many victims. Despite countless resolutions, international meetings and documentation, attacks on the people of Syria continue with impunity.
Humanitarian groups may offer to send antidotes and personal protective equipment to health workers in Syria. These are needed items — but they are not enough. The constant violation of humanitarian law in Syria, the undermining of the United Nations as a diplomatic platform, and the starving and gassing of people in order to negotiate a political outcome are not acceptable. It is time that the international community stands up and says enough. We want protection. We want accountability. We want action. [Continue reading…]