Doctors and healthcare workers held a demonstration outside a hospital in the Syrian city of Idlib June 1, to protest the election of the Bashar Assad regime to the executive board of the World Health Organization (WHO). Syria was elected to the board for a three-year term by the 22 countries of WHO’s Eastern Mediterranean region—the latest coup for normalization of the Assad regime. “How can we trust WHO [when] one of its executive board members is the murderer who is killing my colleagues, my friends?” said Dr. Salem Abdan, head of health services for opposition-administered Idlib, in a WhatsApp message. Read a banner at the protest: “We reject the idea that our killer and he who destroyed our hospitals be represented on the executive board.” Idlib province is part of a remaining rebel-held pocket in the northwest of the country, where Assad regime warplanes have for years been bombing hospitals and clinics.
“Hospitals, schools and homes have all been targeted during Syria’s brutal and long-running conflict,” a UN report from last summer found. The report from the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria examined abuses both by pro-regime forces and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), the most significant rebel faction in Idlib. It detailed how from November 2019 to June 2020, a total of 52 documented attacks by all parties included 17 on hospitals and medical facilities; 14 on schools, 12 on homes and nine on markets.
“It is completely abhorrent that, after more than nine years, civilians continue to be indiscriminately attacked, or even targeted, while going about their daily lives,” said commission chair Paulo Pinheiro. “Children were shelled at school, parents were shelled at the market, patients were shelled at the hospital…entire families were bombarded even while fleeing. What is clear from the military campaign is that pro-government forces and UN-designated terrorists flagrantly violated the laws of war and the rights of Syrian civilians.” (Public Radio International, Daily Sabah)
Photo of bombed hospital in northern Syria via Daily Sabah