May 31, 2013
After 200 days of siege on the Outer Damascus city of Darayya, the regime continues to push its forces into the city in an effort to recapture it. On Friday, an army force set out for the eastern gate of the city, coming from Mazzeh Military Airport through the Southern Highway. It included four tanks, two BMPs, four armored vehicles, nine vehicles mounted with DShK machine guns, a number of ambulances, a large number of buses and vehicles carrying soldiers and pick-up trucks. Tanks at the checkpoints on the new road of Jidaydat Sahnaya, on the western side of Darayya, have continued bombing the city on an intermittent basis. Meanwhile, choppers hover over the city skies, and the military presses forward by encircling it.
Darayya is also the site where the regime has reportedly used chemical weapons. Ahmed Kwider spoke to Dr. Majd, a doctor from the Darayya field hospital who asked to be referred to by his first name only. The anesthesiologist says he is using his ad hoc training in treating chemical weapons victims that he has learned talking to international experts online.
Q: How prepared are you to deal with injuries by chemical weapons?
A: I just know in theory about precautions and treating these cases. We, however, don’t have equipment. We only use simple tools, like oxygen generators and some simple medicines.
Q: What are the symptoms resulting from this attack?
A: Most patients suffered breathing difficulties, respiratory failure, pupil contraction, drooling, stomach aches, vomiting, unclear vision and hallucination. Some suffered contractions, and difficulty in swallowing and fainting.
Q: How many injuries by chemical weapons have you treated?
A: Earlier this month, my friends and I were at an evening gathering at my place. I heard a large blast at 12 o’clock. It was followed by other blasts. I received a call from one of my friends. He was with some guys in a house near the blast on the southern side of Darayya. He told me that their skin turned blue after the blast, and that they had breathing difficulties and pupil contractions. I asked them to go to the field hospital. At 1 pm, I followed them. I suffered [the same symptoms], breathing difficulty and pupil contraction, but it wasn’t as severe as theirs. I still have pupil contraction up till now. My friends and I were treated by the doctors at the field hospital. The medics were treating similar cases with those who directly interacted with the injured.
In the morning, we saw a lot of dead animals; birds, dogs, cats. They were on the streets and the sidewalks. Even cows seemed to have symptoms of toxicity. Their milk was green. That was evidence there was a toxic gas in the air. We can’t determine what it is because we don’t have advanced equipment to examine it.
The hospital started to receive the wounded at 1pm, on Thursday, April 25, 2013. They kept coming until 8 am the next day. The number of the patients reached around 130. Their injuries ranged between medium and light, but around 10 cases were severe.
Q: Have you received training to deal with these conditions?
A: There hasn’t been any practical training before, but we communicated with experts through the internet. Most of them were outside of Syria.
Q: Have you been assisted by physicians and military experts to determine what kind of chemicals were used?
A: We don’t have lab equipment to confirm that but after discussing the symptoms of the patients with experts and military personnel, we think the attack was by chemical weapons. It was probably phosphorous, and more accurately sarin.
Q: Do you think America has started to move towards helping the Syrian people?
A: We don’t feel that on the ground. All we hear is talk. I personally hope this time they will be serious. The situation is dangerous, and all the red lines they talked about before have been crossed.
Q: What is the message the Syrian regime is conveying to the world when they use chemical weapons against their people?
A: The Syrian regime wouldn’t use chemical weapons, or any weapons, if they didn’t have international cover from Russia, Iran and others. The entire international community provided a cover for them when they used small statements and not taking actions to stop the Syrian regime.