British doctor, 26, who left London job to treat wounded Syrian civilians dies after his hospital is struck by mortar

May 28, 2013 7:35 am 0 comments Views: 7647

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A young British doctor has been killed by a bomb in Syria as he treated wounded civilians at a makeshift hospital.

‘Inspirational’ Dr Isa Abdur Rahman, 26, had left his position at London’s Royal Free Hospital to volunteer with a British charity in the conflict-ridden country.

The married doctor – who has been described as ‘kind and deeply caring’ – was injured on Wednesday morning when a shell hit the secret clinic in Syria’s Idlib province.

Dr Rahman died shortly afterwards.

Two other civilians died and two more people were wounded by the attack, which charity Hand in Hand for Syria has blamed on government forces, a report in the Times said.

Dr Rahman’s devastated wife, parents and siblings were too upset to speak in the wake of the tragedy.

The 26-year-old, described as ‘brave’ and ‘dedicated’ by the founder of the charity, was from north west London, and trained at Imperial College before taking up a post at the Royal Free.

He flew to Syria almost a year ago after deciding to put his medical expertise to use helping civilians caught up in bitter fighting between forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad and rebels seeking to oust his regime.

Bitter fighting: Dr Rahman began working in conflict-ridden Syria - where a car is seen burning in the wake of shelling by government forces near Damascus this week - almost a year agoBitter fighting: Dr Rahman began working in conflict-ridden Syria – where a car is seen burning in the wake of shelling by government forces near Damascus this week – almost a year ago

Aftermath: Civilians inspect the damage at Arbaeen, near Damascus on Thursday following what activists claimed was shelling by forces loyal to the Assad regimeAftermath: Civilians inspect the damage at Arbaeen, near Damascus on Thursday following what activists claimed was shelling by forces loyal to the Assad regime

He flew to Syria almost a year ago after deciding to put his medical expertise to use helping civilians caught up in bitter fighting between forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad and rebels seeking to oust his regime.

Faddy Sahloul, the chairman and founder of Hand in Hand for Syria, remembered him as ‘one of the bravest and most dedicated people I have met’.

‘I was very close to Dr Isa, a shy young man whom I first met two years ago,’ Mr Sahloul said in a statement.

‘We spent a significant amount of time working together in Turkey and Syria and he was one of the bravest and most dedicated people I have met.

‘Everyone who knew him is shocked an saddened to hear the tragic news of his death, but we can draw comfort from the fact that he died doing work that he loved.

‘Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife and family at this difficult time,’ Mr Sahloul added.

The doctor, who was of Indian descent, had been learning Arabic and was said to be popular with local people.

His body was buried last week in the village of Atmeh, close to the border with Turkey, where Dr Rahman first began working after arriving in Syria.

He set up a clinic in Atmeh then set about travelling from town to town offering medical help.

More recently he had been working in the field hospital in Idlib that came under attack on Wednesday morning.

A Just Giving donation page set up by Hand in Hand for Syria in Dr Rahman’s name has raised more than £20,000.

The charity has said the money raised – £23,392.26 to date – will be used to set up a field hospital in Homs named after the ‘inspirational’ medic.

It had hoped to raise £7,000 to pay for an ambulance in the doctor’s honour, but now has enough for the clinic after thousands more came flooding in.

The organisation said on the fund-raising page of their ‘beloved brother and friend’: ‘Those who knew him personally, and those who have heard of him, will know what an amazing, inspirational, kind and deeply caring person he was.

‘It is quite hard to where even begin describing what an amazing person he was, and all of us are still in shock.’

Mr Sahloul told MailOnline it had been Dr Rahman’s dream to establish a hospital in Homs.

‘Homs is absolutely devastated, it has been under siege for the past 11 months now,’ he said.

‘[Setting up a hospital there] was his dream, and we want to try to make it come true.’

He said news of the young doctor’s death had devastated his family and friends.

‘He was 26-years-old and he had a great future ahead of him’

More than 70,000 people have died since the uprising against Assad’s regime erupted in March 2011. Meanwhile, both sides have agreed in principle to enter direct talks in Geneva next month

BRITAIN TO PUSH FOR END TO SYRIA ARMS BAN… AS OPPONENTS CLAIM LIFTING RESTRICTIONS WILL ‘ADD FUEL TO THE FIRE’

'Compelling': Foreign Secretary William Hague will argue for changes to allow the supply of arms to 'moderate' rebels in Syria‘Compelling’: Foreign Secretary William Hague will argue for changes to allow the supply of arms to ‘moderate’ rebels in Syria

The UK will push for the European Union’s arms embargo on Syria to be lifted to enable the potential supply of weapons to forces opposed to Bashar Assad’s regime. 

At a meeting in Brussels, William Hague will argue that there is a ‘compelling’ case for easing the restrictions in order to strengthen the rebels’ position.

The current embargo expires at the end of the month and Europe’s foreign ministers will attempt to thrash out a replacement package of measures, with the Foreign Secretary and France arguing for changes to allow the supply of arms to ‘moderate’ rebels.

Speaking ahead of the meeting, Mr Hague said the current state of affairs could not be allowed to continue.

He indicated that each country would be able to adopt its own approach once the embargo expires if no common position could be established to replace the current sanctions regime.

The UK and France have led calls for the embargo to be relaxed, but Mr Hague acknowledged their position did not have universal support within Europe.

He insisted that amending the embargo would force Assad’s regime to take peace talks seriously.

He said: ‘There is a difference over what it’s appropriate now for the EU to do. In our view it’s important to show that we are prepared to amend our arms embargo so that the Assad regime gets a clear signal that it has to negotiate seriously.

‘Therefore for us amending the embargo is part of supporting the diplomatic work to bring about the political solution.

‘We also have to think about what is happening to people in Syria, how long can we go on with people having every weapon that’s ever been devised dropped on them while most of the world denies them the means to defend themselves.

‘That is creating extremism, it is radicalising people. We are reaching the limit of how long we can go on with that situation.’

With the possibility of the current restrictions expiring without a replacement, Mr Hague told reporters: ‘It is important that we are doing the right thing for Syria, that is more important than whether the EU is able to stick together on every detail of this.

‘I think we will have to see how the discussion goes, but we are prepared for every eventuality.’

'We are reaching the limit': A Free Syrian Army fighter walks along a devastated street in Arbaeen, near Damascus this week‘We are reaching the limit’: A Free Syrian Army fighter walks along a devastated street in Arbaeen, near Damascus this week

He added: ‘Of course it is preferable for an EU policy to be able to continue. But for that we have to have sufficient agreement on the basis of that policy.

‘We have tried on all previous occasions on this to make sure that there is still a common EU policy but if we can’t have one in the future then each country will have to ensure it has its own sanctions or the sanctions regime will have to be reconstructed for the future.

‘But we are looking for common ground in this meeting, of course it is preferable to keep that policy together if we can.’

Austria is among the countries arguing to keep the EU from providing weapons, insisting it would only exacerbate an already horrific situation.

‘We are not involved in conflicts by delivering arms to one side and we should stay as a peace community by not being involved in such a conflict,” Austrian Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger said.

‘To turn and reverse our line would not help in the conflict,’ he said.

‘Any decision would require unanimity among the 27 member states.’

There are also fears that delivering weapons to the opposition would open the way for extremist groups and terrorists to get hold of weapons that could then be targeted against the EU.

Reza Afshar, the head of the Foreign Office’s Syria team, wrote on Twitter that the EU faced a ‘strategic decision’ today.

Anna Macdonald, head of arms control at Oxfam, warned that supplying weapons would mean ‘adding fuel to the fire’ in Syria.

She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘We are concerned that supplying arms to the opposition won’t level the playing field, in fact it will fuel a deadly arms race that will have even worse consequences for civilians.

‘The millions of people suffering in Syria right now don’t need more arms, they need aid.’

She added: ‘Providing more arms in times of conflict is simply adding fuel to the fire, it’s fanning the flames of conflict and making the situation much worse.’

The peace process must be ‘exhausted’ before any other solutions were considered, she added.

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