Last OB/Gyn in East Ghouta on life support after stray bullet lodges in brain

**UPDATE: Dr. Nabeel a-Daas died of his injuries on Wednesday, May 11, 2016. **

East Ghouta’s last obstetrician and gynecologist is now on life support after a random bullet landed in the back of his head while sitting in his home in Douma last Monday, another casualty caused by two weeks of rebel infighting in the rebel-controlled suburbs east of Damascus.

Months of tensions between Jaish al-Islam (JAI) and rival factions led by Failaq a-Rahman exploded into open clashes in rebel-held East Ghouta that paused on Monday when both parties reached an agreement to end the bloodshed.

The Unified Medical Office for Douma “condemns the targeting of civilians in their houses, the most recent being Dr. Nabeel a-Daas,” the organization, of which a-Daas is a member, said in a statement posted to Facebook the day after he was shot.

Since then, a-Daas has been in intensive care where he has been declared clinically dead.

The loss of the last OB/Gyn and father of three is “insurmountable” in East Ghouta, says Iyad Abd a-Rahman, a-Daas’s colleague and a member of the General Medical Committee in East Ghouta, which oversees all opposition medical offices in the rebel-controlled Damascus suburbs.

“His kindness and selflessness in his work are what make him irreplaceable and what makes this such a great loss,” Abd a-Rahman tells Syria Direct’s Fatima al-Jundi.

 Dr. Nabeel a-Daas after being shot in the head last week.

Q: What happened to a-Daas and what is his current condition?

The attack occurred while Nabeel was at home in Douma. He was shot in the head by a stray bullet fired from a Russian-type machine gun while he was sitting inside. The projectile entered the top part of the back of his head but did not penetrate the other side. Instead it lodged in his brain, suggesting that the bullet was fired from far away.

Dr. a-Daas is currently in intensive care.

Q: What impact does the loss of the doctor have on East Ghouta? Is there anyone with the skills and expertise to take his place?

The loss of the doctor, or of any specialist, in East Ghouta is a great loss that cannot be compensated. This is particularly true if the doctor is a specialist in an area that is not well represented.

Anyone who visited Dr. Nabeel would have seen the many daily cases he saw, would have noticed the long waits and would have realized the impact of his work.

The doctor offered his services to a number of medical centers as well as in his private office. He was also the doctor responsible for OB/Gyn-related cases for the Red Crescent branch in Douma.

On a personal level, he treated more than nine people in my extended family, either by birthing children or treating them for gynecological issues and checking in on a weekly basis.

In light of Nabeel’s absence, his cases have been transferred to internal medicine doctors or midwives in the area.

Q: How did the people of Douma and East Ghouta react to the news?

Obviously, the people are angry and extremely upset over what happened to Dr. a-Daas who was, by all accounts, a good man. Some people demanded revenge and retribution, but the majority of the people are simply commiserating with the doctor’s family—sharing in their sadness and pain.

Dr. Nabeel’s loss is especially saddening and painful since he offered his medical services to anyone in need without any sort of favoritism or preference. His kindness and selflessness in his work are what make him irreplaceable and what makes this such a great loss.

Q: What is your personal opinion of the events in East Ghouta right now and, more specifically, your view on the lack of medical professionals?

My position on what’s happening in Ghouta is that of any native son of Ghouta: I feel incredibly saddened and pained by the infighting and the death of civilians and soldiers. This infighting only benefits the criminal Assad regime.

The loss of medical professionals leaves an irreplaceable gap. Each time we lose another doctor or specialist in East Ghouta, their patients must struggle to find an alternative, must try and leave Ghouta to finish their treatment, must settle for help from people with non-specialized expertise or just endure the pain and injuries that might leave them permanently disabled.

Q: What is the chance of finding those responsible for the attack on the doctor?

Everyone demands that the perpetrator be punished despite the difficulties in determining who it was, since Dr. a-Daas was struck by seemingly random gunfire. The forensic report of the entry angle of the bullet suggests it came from Harasta. [Ed.: Harasta is a northeastern Damascus suburb adjacent to Douma to the west. The distance between the centers of both suburbs is only 3km, within the maximum firing range of a medium-caliber machine gun.]

We hope that all killers, including that of Doctor Nabeel and other civilians, are brought to justice regardless of the difficulties and current lack of capabilities.

Q:  What is the medical situation in East Ghouta in general and, more specifically, in regards to the remaining medical specialists and the availability of medicine?

The situation is critical and has been deteriorating for a long time, but especially since the beginning of the blockade. There is an extreme shortage: Medicine isn’t being allowed into Ghouta, even through international organizations such as the Red Crescent and the Red Cross.

In terms of medical specialists, there are a few left in Ghouta—we have a neurologist, an ophthalmologist and a number of orthopedic surgeons and orthodontists.

Fatima al-Jundi

Fatima was born in Qudsaya, Damascus. She holds a law degree from Damascus university. She moved to Jordan in 2012. She is hoping to learn journalism in order to change people’s perceptions about the conflict in Syria.

Samuel Kieke

Samuel Kieke was a 2014-2015 CASA I fellow in Amman, Jordan. He received his BA from the University of Texas at Austin in Arabic Language and Literature, Middle Eastern Studies, and International Relations and Global Studies.