On Monday, 80 governments and dozens of world leaders inaugurated the first-of-its-kind World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul. From the G7 countries, only German Chancellor Angela Merkel was in attendance.
The summit called by the U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon in response to humanitarian challenges, especially in neighboring Syria, was set to be attended by 6,000 people including heads of organizations and private sector leaders.
“Doctors Without Borders” announced it’s non-participation in the summit, calling it “a fig-leaf of good intention.” According to the organization, the two-day Humanitarian Summit will “put states on the same level as non-governmental organizations and U.N. agencies, which have no such powers or obligations.”
According to ABC News, “Doctors Without Borders” say that at least 100 staff members, patients and caretakers were killed and more than 130 injured, in aerial bombings and shelling attacks, on more than 80 health structures supported by it, in 2015 and early 2016.
Hospitals and physicians in the Middle East and elsewhere have been attacked simply for treating people on both sides of the conflict. Treating patients in war zones has become so dangerous that some hospitals have gone undercover, and residents in a number of communities in Syria have protested against efforts to reopen bombed hospitals to avoid being hit again.
On April 27th, the Syrian Air Force attacked the Al-Quds hospital in Aleppo, killing 27 people, among them Dr. Mohammed Wasim Moaz, the last pediatrician in the city who was offering hope and treatment to thousands of children and their parents.
This attack and hundreds of others similar have turned the universally recognized symbol of the Red Cross, which is supposed to offer protection and safety, into a deadly target and have exposed the cruelty of certain regimes and the failure of the international community to prevent and punish such crimes.
Assad’s government denies targeting hospitals or other civilian areas, but Syria’s representative to the U.N., Bashar Ja’afari, has accused “Doctors Without Borders” (under the French acronym MSF) of being French spies and said they should be blamed for attacks on their facilities because they are operating in an area not controlled by the government.
Russia, too, has been tied to attacks. Its forces backing the Syrian president have been accused of intentionally striking hospitals. Assad’s military has been charged with deliberately striking civilian targets to crush the will of the population, render rebel-held areas unlivable, and causing families to leave in a clear policy of demographic-cleansing.
Physicians for Human Rights calls the attacks in Syria the most widespread and systematic assault on healthcare documented in recent history. Nearly 740 doctors and staff have been killed in more than 360 attacks on hospitals in Syria during the last five years of the conflict, according to Physicians for Human Rights. A study by the International Committee of the Red Cross documented some 2,400 attacks against patients, health personnel and medical facilities during the period of 2012-2014 alone.
The attack on Al-Quds hospital brought attention to the dangers faced by medical care workers, in Syria and elsewhere. Al-Quds hospital was recently reopened. Another volunteer doctor is replacing Moaz. When he spoke to the Associated Press, he asked for anonymity, fearing being targeted.
“If he (Assad) keeps hitting hospitals, we will set up hospitals underground. We are staying here,” he said.
The regime who is getting strength and gaining territory due to the unconditional support of his Russian and Iranian allies is losing legitimacy and credibility everyday inside the country and on the moral and international levels … what kind of victory would be achieved?