British doctors putting their lives on the line in Syria
Charlie Cooper is Health Correspondent for The Independent, i, and The Independent on Sunday, writing on the NHS, medical advances, and international health. Since joining the papers as an editorial assistant, he has been nominated for young journalist of the year at both the Press Awards and the British Journalism Awards.
Sunday 02 June 2013
The death of a young British doctor in Syria has spurred support for a small UK charity that is among the few bringing frontline medical aid to civilians caught up in the conflict – often provided by NHS doctors putting their careers on hold, or giving up holidays to bring their expertise to one of the world's most bitter war zones.
Dr Isa Abdur Rahman, 26, from London, was killed on 22 May when government troops shelled a medical facility in Idlib. Since his death, the charity he worked for says it has seen an upsurge in support with several more British doctors volunteering to work in Syria as well as a huge increase in donations.
The charity, Hand in Hand for Syria, says friends of the murdered doctor and supporters of the charity are determined his death will not be in vain.
One group of fundraisers, calling themselves "Isa's Friends", donated more than £55,000 in little over a week. An original fundraising target, to collect £7,000 for an ambulance to be dispatched to the front line in Syria, was reached in just 14 hours, and the charity now has enough to start up a field hospital in the city of Homs. According to the charity, several doctors have also come forward offering to join their team of medics in Syria.
The young man's family, who have asked not to be identified, told The Independent on Sunday: "Isa was a real humanitarian. He ardently felt the pain of others as though it was his own. He felt that as a Muslim it was his responsibility to help others, irrespective of the dangers that he faced."
Dr Rahman, a recent graduate of Imperial College London, was a first-year doctor at the Royal Free Hospital in London. He had put his career on hold to work in Syria. He was married and was the eldest of five children. His father, a dentist, and his mother said they were "immeasurably proud" of their son. His wife called him "the best husband anyone could wish for" and his brothers and sisters said he would be "an example to all of us".
Hand in Hand for Syria works with around 30 British doctors, many of whom swap NHS ward rounds for service in field hospitals on and near battlefronts in rebel-controlled areas.
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