Dedication

1 of the 2 remaining OBGYN doctors in Aleppo speaks out about why she’s still working there

A general view shows the damage at the Omar bin Abdaziz hospital in the Maadi district of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo after a barrel bomb struck just outside during government air raids on rebel-held districts of the city on July 16, 2016. (THAER MOHAMMED/AFP/Getty Images)

One of the doctors who signed an open letter sent to President Obama last week that said, “We do not need tears or sympathy or even prayers. We need action,” is Dr. Farida Almouslem. As the number of doctors working in Syria’s Aleppo City dwindles, Almouslem is one of just two remaining OBGYN doctors who are devoted specifically to women’s health and and the delivery of newborns in the war-torn city. The 37-year-old physician sat down for an interview via Skype with Public Radio International (PRI) this week and was profiled by The Intercept late last month. Almouslem, 37, told PRI that bombings from airstrikes near the hospital where she works, in the eastern section of the city happen literally at any time. Indeed, during the interview, of which PRI posted audio, the attacks can be heard on the recording. “Explosions are all the time,” she said. “It’s not safe. I work on the third floor in my hospital, and many times the walls have been perforated.” Almouslem said it’s a dangerous place for doctors and especially harrowing for the mothers who give birth there.

Once, Almouslem said, a mother was struck in the neck by a shard of glass shattered in an airstrike. “Every woman who comes to the hospital knows there’s a danger to her life. So they just give birth and go home, as they know our hospital is always being targeted by the Assad regime,” she said. That’s a point she made in the interview with The Intercept as well. “The regime is killing us every day. If they take Aleppo City, they will kill everyone.” The hostile conditions have unfortunately become the norm at the hospital, which has been hit numerous times in attacks. Almouslem said she was right in the middle of performing a C-section on a patient, during one air raid that hit the hospital. Bombs can rain down as frequently as “every three or four hours,” she said. “Bashar al-Assad is a monster.” Even when she leaves work, Almouslem can’t escape the bombings as the neighborhood where she lives is often a target of airstrikes. She has a 7-year-old daughter, whom she distracts from the chaos and violence with movies on an iPad.

She’s now the only OBGYN left in the eastern part of the city and she struggles with having to bring new lives into the world under such horrific conditions. She worries that the world simply doesn’t care about their plight. So, why does she keep going? Why not just leave the war-torn city like so many of her colleagues have already done? “I love my work, and I love my patients,” she explained. “And I love little babies.”

Read the full story at PRI and The Intercept.

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