Islamic State closes last hospital in west Deir e-Zor

AMMAN: Members of the Islamic State (IS) closed the only hospital in the western Deir e-Zor countryside on Tuesday and in the same decree banned male doctors from practicing obstetrics and gynecology, leaving residents in the west of the mostly IS-controlled province with no local source of medical care.

The Kharita hospital closed on Tuesday “until further notice,” Mujahid a-Shami, the founder of Deir e-Zor is Being Slaughtered Silently media campaign told Syria Direct on Wednesday. Kharita was “the only hospital that was not run and staffed by IS” in the province, he added.

With the closure, residents of Deir e-Zor’s western countryside will be forced to travel either to A-Raqqa or the eastern countryside to receive treatment, a-Shami said, as “there are no clinics in the area.”

IS also “forbade male OB/GYNs from working” in the western countryside in any capacity, six months after shuttering women’s clinics there, a-Shami said.

There are no female OB/GYNs in west Deir e-Zor, part of a general shortage of medical professionals in a province almost entirely controlled by the Islamic State. Many “have travelled to Europe by way of a-Raqqa and Aleppo,” Jad al-Hassan, an activist working with the same media campaign told Syria Direct on Wednesday.

Shortly after taking control of most of the province in July 2014, IS told OB/GYNs in the east Deir e-Zor town of Mayadin to stop working and forcibly closed their clinics, ostensibly to prevent the mixing of men and women.

IS ordered Mayadin’s women to go to “the only female OB/GYN in the city, who became responsible for the city’s women if they became ill,” al-Araby al-Jadeed quoted unnamed activists from the city as saying in July of last year.  The orders came amidst a series of “reforms” that included banning smoking under threat of “30 to 50 lashes.”

It was not immediately clear why Tuesday’s order for male OBGYNs in western Deir e-Zor to stop practicing came more than one year after the closures in Mayadin.

However, despite restrictions on OB/GYNs in both the eastern and western parts of the province, “the situation in the eastern countryside is better,” al-Shami told Syria Direct, “Since there are five female OB/GYNs and a number of midwives.”

Tuesday’s measures are only the latest strain on Deir e-Zor’s thinly spread medical infrastructure.

IS fighters had previously closed several of the eastern province’s clinics and hospitals in March 2014 in areas they controlled under the pretext that they “received support from apostate organizations” such as Relief International and Physicians Across Continents, Ahmad al-Qasem, a doctor in the province told pro-opposition news site All4Syria at the time.

The closures occurred as IS battled opposition groups including FSA brigades and Jabhat a-Nusra for control of the eastern desert province in the first half of 2014.

Some of the affected institutions were “turned into military hospitals to primarily treat IS fighters,” the same doctor said, adding that IS fighters had also “taken control of warehouses of medicines and hospital supplies and moved them to A-Raqqa city.”

Ghalia Muhkalalati

Ghalia Muhkhalalati holds a degree in computer science, where she attained the third highest grade in Syria for her year. She worked as a private teacher for displaced persons when the revolution began and arrived in Jordan in 2013.

Noura Hourani

Noura Hourani is from Latakia province. She studied English Literature at Tishreen University and previously worked as a private English tutor in Syria. She has worked at Syria Direct since 2015 and was named the 2018 Middle East and North Africa Laureate for the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers' (WAN-IFRA) Women in News Editorial Leadership Award.

Mateo Nelson

Mateo Nelson was a 2014-2015 fellow at the Center for Arabic Study Abroad program (CASA I) in Amman, Jordan. Mateo holds a BA in Near Eastern Studies from Princeton University, with a certificate in Arabic Language and Culture.

Mahmoud Al-Saour

Mahmoud studied electrical engineering in community college. He used to work as a tradesman when the revolution began. He worked in an aid organization that caused him to be placed in detention by the regime. After these events Mahmoud and his family left Damascus for Amman. He worked in sales and he was looking for a more meaningful opportunity.

Kholoud al-Shami

Kholoud and her family fled from Syria to Jordan because of the dangers afeter the revolution. She did not finish her degree in English Literature from Damascus University. Kholoud was unable to continue her study in Jordan because of the tuition payments. She volunteered by teaching refugee classes in Amman. She intends to support her career by combining English and journalism skills.