'We... choose who lives and who dies'

2012-07-12 21:01

Qusayr - "I've cried a lot in the past nine months," says Dr Kassem al-Zein, founder of a field hospital in the besieged rebel-held Syrian city of Qusayr, "especially when a child dies in my arms".

With three children of his own, Zein chokes up as he tells of five youngsters brought in two months ago, all hit by shrapnel from one of the countless mortar bombs that rain down on the city along with Grad rockets and other artillery.

"They all had serious head or chest wounds, and some were dead on arrival. I did everything I could but, in the end, all five died."

Qusayr was once a city of 50 000, but its population has shrunk to around 10,000 as people have fled daily shelling and house-to-house fighting in President Bashar al-Assad's campaign to retake it.

The hospital, located in an old house in the city centre, is no exception.

"We are a main target for the regime, which is why they bombard us constantly," Zein says.

There is a huge hole in the building's facade, the result of a direct hit, and the staff know that each day could be their last.

"All of us are afraid because we are being hunted by the regime, and if they catch us, they will execute us as traitors.

"They execute us because we are doing our job - saving lives. We have become enemies."

Head destroyed

The hospital was set up nine months ago by doctors who escaped from the city's National Hospital, which is under the control of regime forces.

"We admitted around 570 patients this month wounded by the bombs that constantly fall on the city and another 100 with gunshot wounds, mostly from snipers," Zein says.

A loud honking outside interrupts the conversation; the morning's first wounded are arriving.

A man rushes in carrying an 11-year-old girl in his arms, leaving an intermittent trail of blood in the corridor behind him, his own shirt soaked red.

The girl is dead, her head destroyed by shrapnel.

A few seconds later, and more honking. Nurses quickly remove two boys, one aged three the other four, from a car and rush them inside.

Their faces are covered with blood, but Dr Saleh Mahmud Sadir says they'll be fine.

"They only have a few cuts on their heads and extremities," he says.

"Now do you understand why we stay here? We stay for them, the people."

Choose who dies

Sadir has his own grief to bear. His son died in his arms after taking a direct hit.

"My duty and my mission is to keep working until the regime falls. I became a doctor to help people and save lives. We are on the right side."

Umm Amaar, one of the nurses, tries to wipe the blood from one of the boy's face as a colleague stitches the wound.

Another bomb hits the building, breaking the windows of the emergency room, and the nurses quickly move the wounded further inside. More wounded arrive and have to be put wherever there is space.

"Life always takes precedence over death," chief nurse Rabia Ismail says.

"We give priority to those we think have a possibility of surviving surgery. We can't treat everybody equally because, if we did, we would not manage to save any lives.

"We have to choose who lives and who dies, but at the end of the day we think, no, it wasn't we who killed them, it was Assad's bombs."

Dr Sadir elaborates, saying "we don't have the equipment needed to treat the most serious cases. We don't have a neurosurgeon, so if there are head wounds, the only solution is to send the patients to Lebanon."

"As for the others... there is little we can do except try to ease their pain and make their deaths as painless as possible. The rest is in the hands of God."

Little by little, the chaos subsides as the shelling eases off, and the frayed nerves begin to relax.

But Ismail recalls what he says was probably the most frightening day of his life, a day when more than 50 wounded were brought in as shelling continued outside.

"One bomb hit just 15m from the hospital, killing a man who was coming to donate blood. But despite everything we continued stitching the wounds, even as we risked being hit."

  • fidel.mgoqi - 2012-07-12 21:22

    By talking we can resolve all of the world's problems with compromise and understanding, never violence. "The most shocking fact about war is that its victims and its instruments are individual human beings, and that these individual beings are condemned by the monstrous conventions of politics to murder or be murdered in quarrels not their own." Aldous Huxley

      AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-07-13 06:57

      Fidel, Don't waste our time with your silly 'quotes' Just throw that book away, and start concentrating on the reality on the ground in Syria. Than , just maybe, you won't make stupid, dumb and ignorant comments like you did a few days ago;; ""I've seen the videos and the interviews as well and the majority of Syrians are going on with the daily lives, most of the country is unaffected by this rebellion. The airports still function, the power and water utilities are operational, the garbage disposal service and the transport system is also operational"" Are you INSANE ?? Or are you soo bloated with HATRED that you MUST talk such bullsh.t ??? Qusayr, a city close to Homs, Syria's second largest city. Homs is in ruins. Assad TANKS have seen to that ! These assad terrorists drove their tanks through buildings, including mant apartment blocks,The one they did not drive through they fired ROCKETS from their TANKS, into these buildings. Many parts of Homs, is today a ghost town Now go and read the above article, SLOWLY, and if you have to, 5 or even 10 times, And than maybe you don't have to talk such unbelievable SH.T

      allcoveredinNinjas - 2012-07-13 08:51

      “You can have peace. Or you can have freedom. Don't ever count on having both at once.” ? Robert A. Heinlein “Despotic governments can stand 'moral force' till the cows come home; what they fear is physical force.” ? George Orwell

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-07-13 09:13

      @Ninja Peace is the only battle worth waging. Albert Camus (1913-1960) A bad peace is better than a good war. War only brings misery!

      AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-07-13 09:16

      @Fidel, 'stop talking sh.t' anthony ( 13 july 2012, 09.16 )

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-07-13 09:39

      Calm down clown. There's no need to get your knickers in a twist.

      gerhard.kress.3 - 2012-07-13 10:00

      Fidel supports genocide. What is good for Mladic will be good for Assad.

      ryan.a.smith.3958 - 2012-07-13 10:30

      Fidel, are you comprehending yet ?? Assad ordering the murder of his people, the execution of doctors assisting the wounded .. but you will continue to blame the US. when the doctors say "its Assad's bombs" they're obviously lying right ??? America bombing all the innocents ??? all those children ??? but wait, Fidel says its all a conspiracy, or that the damaging news reports are fabricated, or its just terrorists, or that they deserve it for rebelling against their government at the behest of America .. sorry if I forgot any of your other excuses. nice to have our very own Syrian government/Assad mouthpiece on this forum, nice work Fidel

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-07-13 10:50

      @Ryan Syria is a sovereign nation. It is in the middle of suppressing an armed rebellion. No matter how unpleasant Assad is, he is acting as any leader of a sovereign nation would. Many other protests and rebellions have been violently put down, and others have been successful. The successful ones have seen the country's army stand behind the movement rather than the despot. Armies, from the generals down, are political figures as well.

      ryan.a.smith.3958 - 2012-07-13 11:26

      No Fidel, Assad is acting as any DICTATOR would. but maybe you wouldnt understand the difference

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-07-13 11:40

      @Gerhad Bush, Blair and Obama have killed more Arabs than Assad, but it is Assad who you want to put before the International Criminal Court. How surprising, not at all, it is what you would expect from a humanitarian warmonger with a colonial mindset.

      AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-07-13 12:16

      Fidel, Yes, Syria is a sovereign nation, but what you don't seem to grasp, is that the Syrian regime is illegitimate !! NOBODY put these assad dogs there, but themselves, and for FIFTY YEARS, they were to patrofied to hold elections, as they would see, like any dictator, the only support they would have would come from family and friends!!!! Now, don't reply with one of your dumb stupid quotes, but sit down , and for once, work this one out for yourself !!!!!!!!!

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-07-13 12:40

      And the rebels have legitimacy, who gave it to them? The Syrian regime is still the legitimate authority of that country, whether you like it or not. This conflict requires that rational thought dictate opinion and not emotional responses. That is the essence of political debate.

      ryan.a.smith.3958 - 2012-07-13 12:57

      Fidel, Assad doesn't simply kill Arabs, he massacres his own people. pretty sure Obama et al dont do that you fool

      ryan.a.smith.3958 - 2012-07-13 13:03

      Fidel, if you believe that the Syrian government is legitimate and elected by the people then you are dumber than we thought. its the illegitimacy of the Syrian government that is at the heart of this uprising you idiot !!! if you can't understand that then no wonder you can't understand everything else. you say such dumb things that I'm starting to think youre some bored troll. or you were dropped on your head as a kid and somethings not quite right upstairs

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-07-13 14:07

      Who is we? Is it you and your mouse in your pocket? Obama is killing lots and lots of kids, old people and unarmed, innocent civilians by drones and night raids. But that doesn't matter of course because they speak a language and have a religion you don't understand, they have another skin colour, they are extremely poor and they are illiterate. They are so to speak sub-human. So, no matter how many kids and old people Godfather Obama kills deliberately, he is still wonderful, isn't he? Are you capable of constructing a sentence that doesn't contain some crass attempt at an insult...And get some new insults, please.

      gerhard.kress.3 - 2012-07-13 14:19

      Fidel you lose all legitimacy (as if any dictator ever had any) when you use tanks, artillery and helicopter gunships against your own nation.

      AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-07-13 14:22

      Gerhard, Spot on !!!!

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-07-13 14:34

      Gerhard, what you wish for and reality are totally two different things. Oh, and congrats for once being able to refrain from your smart-alecky one-liners . Your fingers must be hurting from all that typing.

      ryan.a.smith.3958 - 2012-07-13 14:36

      Fidel would probably shoot his family and friends if they p1ss him off and justify it that other murderers do the same thing ... and then he'd blame America for making him do it

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-07-13 15:23

      Its always good to argue from a position of misguided knobheadedness. Brilliant!

      gerhard.kress.3 - 2012-07-13 17:57

      Fidel once again you are reduced to personal attacks because you are no longer able to defend your inane political statements.

  • harold.chisimba - 2012-07-12 21:24


      william.letsong.5 - 2012-07-13 04:19

      Can you read? \We give priority to those we think have a possibility of surviving surgery. We can't treat everybody equally because, if we did, we would not manage to save any lives\. That is why, do you now understand? If not here's an example. In SA we have the equipment, but we have to deal with lazy medical staff who hate what they are doing, because they are doing it for employment. In Syria they don't have the luxuries, but their passion and love for what they are doing are the driving force behind them to save the lives of those they think stand a chance. I salute them. They are heroes.

  • phae.rayden - 2012-07-12 21:34

    One can barely believe this is happening in 2012, it sounds like a tragic second world war story. How can people still choose this kind of terror and destruction to resolve conflict with all we now understand about the trauma, loss and waste of war? My thoughts are with these brave men and women and the terrified children who can't escape this horror.

  • Makhavele - 2012-07-12 21:43

    I thank u Lord 4 being a South African citeze. Inocent souls are dyin in ada countries. Please Lord come down 2 intervene in this tragit.

  • vic.carrots - 2012-07-12 22:36

    All political conflicts or wars are about natural resources such as gold, oil, natural chemical to make bombs, etc. The question is WHY? I mean we all know that we will die some day and leave all these things here on earth. If people feel that these resources are so valuable and important, WHY NOT share them with everyone instead of killing each other?

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-07-12 23:12

      Capitalism, where money and greed are way more important than helping your fellow humans. This is a cruel system, even worse than feudalism. At least the serfs had a place to sleep and they could pilfer fruit when no one was looking. This is the natural order of things, because of human nature, because of greed, because of predation, etc

      antin.herinck - 2012-07-13 01:50

      Fidel, Your first comment (@ 21:22) above was as good as this is BS! Four your much needed education, study the regimes of both Stalin and Mao Zedong. Between the two COMMUNIST tyrants, they killed tens of millions of their people. So read that, be objective and shut up with your crap here.

      AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-07-13 06:03

      Fidel, ""Capitalism, where money and greed are way more important than helping your fellow humans"" You are so disgustingly bloated FULL OF HATRED, that you have lost ANY sense of reality. The countries you in your silly childish way, HATE so much, the USA and Europe, EVERY YEAR ,POUR HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS OF US DOLLARS OR EUROS OF AID INTO AFRICA. EVERY YEAR, MILLIONS OF AFRICANS, are saved from starving to death by these 'capitalists' EVERY YEAR MILLIONS OF AFRICANS, who are hiv aids or malaria sufferers, are being treated with medicine, send and paid for by Americans and Europeans!! A few days ago, on CNN, Christian Amanpour, interviewed Melinda Gates, who with her husband, Bill gates, not only have donated hundreds of millions US, probably well over one Billion by now, of their own money, but have both spend so much of their time on Africa projects. Their main focus being on prevention and treatment of aid and malaria, and on family planning!! To read your comment, actually makes me puke !!!!!!! The SOLE purpose of ANY of your comments is to SPEW HATRED, THATS ALL !! Let me assure you, that AFRICANS accross this continent despice people like you !!!!

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-07-13 08:09

      @Antin If a capitalist revolution had ensued in Russia, someone, probably still Stalin, would have seized power and used that to oppress and kill his fellow citizens and create much the same economic problems too. That was his nature, same as the capitalist Hitler. There's an old saying "It's almost impossible to make someone see something when their paycheck depends on their not seeing it".

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-07-13 08:13

      @Anthony You can't torpedo a passenger ship and then congratulate yourself that you picked up a few survivors. I wonder whether you, with your standard of comprehension can fathom this.

      allcoveredinNinjas - 2012-07-13 08:26

      Fidel , whats your alternative to capitalism although i don't think you understand it at all and have adopted the OWS version. By all means have a go!

      AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-07-13 08:32

      Fidel, Like the dictators / tyrants and mass murderers you support, you actually think you are soo clever. But like these scumbags, it is the total opposite. Besides your book of 'quotes, which you bore many endlessly with , you got NOTHING to offer to any debate; besides BS AND HATRED!!! THAT ARE YOUR SPECIALITIES !!!!

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-07-13 09:08

      @Ninja Democratic Socialism. This doesn't mean Stalin or Mao. I mean an open, free and just society with the state and corporations reduced to their proper size.

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-07-13 09:09

      @Anthony Please show me where the dissent corner is so I can go stand there and not get in the way of the circle-jerk in progress.

      allcoveredinNinjas - 2012-07-13 11:12

      Fidel - thats what is currently in place , mixed economies . No country , state or province has ever employed capitalism in its absolute form though we have had absolute communism and absolute socialism ... they failed. Deciding how big or how small state and enterprise should be is still debated , banks ect being to small to ride the tides of the business cycle and the organisations being so big that a failure in one has enourmous impact alla 08' .

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-07-13 11:31

      I'm not a Marxist and capitalism in any form is unsustainable because it requires the exploitation of the labour/resources of the many to enrich the few. The reason Socialism failed in most countries is that it was attacked from the outset by the USA, aka capitalism inc. Socialism was not perfect, but with the sabotage it endured and lies we were being told as to how bad it was by the feudalist, it's amazing we have the social institutions that we have today that are barely surviving. Should capitalism be challenged by new ways to organise society, the world as we know it won't end in chaos and the destruction of civilisation, but will probably end up being more civilised and enlightened, which is what the commentor (Vic Carrots) I was responding to was asking for.

      gerhard.kress.3 - 2012-07-13 14:25

      Fidel have you ever been to Cuba? Downtown Johannesburg looks about like all cities and towns in Cuba. You have got a faulty vision of human dignity.

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-07-13 14:45

      The current state of Cuba exist partly because of the economic siege on that country by the US. There is a stark difference between the essence of modern day socialism and Cuba or North Korea. There is a big and vast difference between Socialism and Communism, and don't ask me what it is, do your own research.

      allcoveredinNinjas - 2012-07-13 14:47

      Making false claims again , 'requires the exploitation of labour/resources'. I could just as easily argue that socialism does the exact same thing , not only that socialism and communism become ultimate monopolies or the ultimate corporation that being Govt controlling all the resources and means of production, the very thing they worry about in the private sector (all the eggs in one basket). The current and 08 finacial crisis are direct results of socialist policy which increased systemic risk (Clinton ninja policy and sovereign debt now in europe). The utopian ideal you reference of vics is a great ideal however would only work in a society of clones or lemmings who all agree all the time and for that to become anywhere near feasible you need a dictator , history speaks for itself there and policies which have provided more for the most people. Non-of these ideas are perfect but some work a whole lot better than others.

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-07-13 15:18

      All the fear-laden, callous claims that "it's the best system we have" won't change the outcome of the moral test we are put to, it's time to make a better system.

      allcoveredinNinjas - 2012-07-13 15:36

      I'm not sure what moral test you'd like to employ but heads up , there is no perfect system and everyone is tweeking and improving theirs to try deal with the rapidly changing environment , its flexible.

      ryan.a.smith.3958 - 2012-07-13 15:51

      oh ya Fidel ? what size would you like to reduce Truworths to ? or Sasol ? or Vodacom ?

      ryan.a.smith.3958 - 2012-07-13 15:55

      Fidel blames everything on America ... from all wars in history, to all conspiracies, for the failure of communism and socialism in countries around the world, for all greed and for causing him to be dropped on his head when he was a kid

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-07-13 16:40

      Shrill and shriller by the day....

  • Marco - 2012-07-13 00:07

    first and most important rule of war : make sure its an away match

  • lskosana3 - 2012-07-13 00:09

    Oh the innocent children! Too heartbreaking :(

  • Malose-Nyatlo - 2012-07-13 05:21

    Assad is riding on the back of a tiger - he cannot alight!

  • jeremy002 - 2012-07-13 06:08

    Assad and the majority of the population are Shi'a. The country is run on a strict Alawite type Shi'a system. The majority population and ruling authority and ruling clerics in Saudi Arabia are Sunni. Saudi Arabia has it in their power to stop the carnage in Syria. It is interesting that this is not happening by direct intervention. The free (opposition) army fighting the the Asssad forces is Sunni directed, and obviously covertly assisted by their Sunni neighbours, but the radical muslim brotherhood is slowly taking over the Syrian resistance, and the Saudis know this. That is why the carnage continues. The so-called "Arab Spring" has far more to do with the establishing of radical muslim style(read Al Qaeda type)governments throughout the region. This they believe will pave the way for the LONG-HELD DREAM of the uniting of Arabs/Muslims, by force and at any cost if necessary. This is for the push for the eradication of Israel, and then Muslim world domination, and of course, the FINAL CONFLICT. The high price of oil at the moment is paying for all this - very important!! THE WEST IS PAYING FOR IT!! The deplorable and unacceptable carnage in Syria (and other regions) is a small price to pay according to the radicals. Look at the way they are prepared to blow themselves and their bothers and sisters up on a daily basis.

      jaba.kov - 2012-07-13 08:33

      The Arab spring has become an Arab winter... Democracy has gone out the window while fanatical Islamics have come in through the door. The brotherhood means business and so does the Butcher of Damascus (Assad)... they will kill each other till there is a winner.

      ebrahim.floris.7 - 2012-07-13 09:19

      These Arab nations are beyond disgraceful,the richest in the world(Qatar,Abu Dhabi,Dubai),yet they stand by whilst these atrocities are taking place afraid to even assist with medical supplies and such.

  • rivalani.mabasa - 2012-07-13 07:39

    Are these happening in Syria that we read about in the bible of God, where the city Damascus is? The place that the Appostle Paul used to preach from?

  • Lee - 2012-07-13 08:36

    HEROES.... I Have no words to describe people like these , only the utmost admiration. I hope that they and there families will be spared so that they can save many more lives.

  • johleneh - 2012-07-13 08:40

    My deepest sympathies with these exceptional people, may they be protected and rewarded with peace and happiness for their sacrifice..

  • rodney.sambo - 2012-07-13 10:11

    Dr Sadir, Dr Zain, & all your nurses... May God Jehovha Bless you with more power to save more people! You are the best!!!

  • mark.govender.94 - 2012-07-13 10:19

    NOW THESE ARE THE REASONS THAT YOU SHOULD TAKE UP MEDICINE and not for the money, IT'S A PASSION... Doc, hang in there, in the end you will prevail and your good deeds will be rewarded, be it here or in the next life... to the people suffering, be strong and keep the faith. RIP TO THE INNNOCENT THAT DIED..!!

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