AMMAN: The staff of at least 10 hospitals in rebel-held Aleppo are on strike, demanding that members of a rebel brigade accused of torturing a hospital employee to death earlier this week be brought to justice, opposition activists and a journalist in the northern city told Syria Direct on Thursday.
Khaled Iskeif, an employee of Aleppo’s al-Daqqaq field hospital, was visiting another hospital in the city on Tuesday when “a group of 10 individuals in two cars” kidnapped him, Aleppo city activist Maher al-Halabi told Syria Direct on Thursday. Iskeif showed up critically injured at a third Aleppo hospital seven hours later, and died shortly thereafter.
The same day, Iskeif’s employer, the al-Daqqaq hospital, issued a statement accusing local rebel faction Jabhat a-Turkman of responsibility for his death as a result of “prolonged torture with electricity, severe beatings and hanging.”
Jabhat a-Turkman has not yet released any public statements regarding the accusations. The group is a 50-member battalion that broke away from the FSA Sultan Murad Division two months ago, Aleppo activist Muhammad Raslan told Syria Direct on Thursday. “The battalion has some corrupt elements, and they commit a lot of abuses,” alleges Raslan. A motive for Iskeif's killing was not immediately clear on Thursday.
On Wednesday, al-Daqqaq and at least nine other Aleppo hospitals suspended all work except for emergencies. A statement the same day by the Aleppo City Medical Council condemned “repeated violations against medical centers and their personnel” and said that the city’s medical facilities would "suspend all but emergency services." They will not go back to work until those responsible for Iskeif’s death are held responsible and hospitals protected, read the statement.
Rebel-held Aleppo medical personnel and activists demonstrated on Wednesday following the killing of a hospital employee, allegedly by a local rebel brigade, the day before. Photo courtesy of Shaam News Network.
Alongside the closures, dozens of activists, doctors, nurses, and civil defense members took to the streets on Wednesday “condemning criminal activity against medical staff and demanding that the relevant authorities take action against the perpetrators,” Aleppo city activist Maher al-Halabi told Syria Direct on Thursday.
Demonstrators chanted slogans including “no assaults on medical staff,” “shabiha get out,” and “now we have an Air [Force Intelligence],” referring to the regime intelligence branch known for its use of torture. They, too, pledged not to return to work until those who killed Iskeif were held responsible.
“Strike until the killer is held accountable.” Photo courtesy of Aleppo Media Center.
The Aleppo Sharia Court, a body meant to have jurisdiction over rebel brigades in the city, publicly addressed this week’s events in its own announcement on Wednesday, decrying the “painful incident” and pledging to “carry out the appropriate punishment for those whose involvement in the crime is proven.”
“All medical institutions and their people are a red line,” the court added.
For Aleppo medical personnel who protested on Wednesday, it is a red line that has been crossed one time too many.
“We won’t go back to work until the killer is turned over to the Sharia court,” read a sign carried by a protester.