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During turmoil, Utah doctors await news from family in Syria

By Carole Mikita | Posted - Dec 13th, 2012 @ 8:20pm


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SALT LAKE CITY — For three Utah County doctors, along with countless others, the fighting in Syria is a real threat to their families, from whom they await anxiously to hear.

For 21 months now, the civil war crisis in Syria has captured the world's attention. The once beautiful, ancient city of Aleppo — where all three doctors hail from and still have family — was a tourist destination with ancient historical significance. Now its citizens are trapped and starving.

Approximately 50,000 Syrians have died in the conflict and hundreds of thousands are refugees. The U.S. is now recognizing the rebels.

The doctors report that at this point, their families are safe and uninjured, though they live in terrible conditions and constant fear. The doctors watch television news and wait to hear the latest, hoping an end to this civil war is near.

"For the last probably two weeks, we are barely able to contact them and when we contact them, there is no power, no fuel for heating, no even bread or water," said Dr. Mohammad Alsolaiman said.

Alsolaiman, his fellow countrymen and friends compare information from their families in Syria. They all grew up in Aleppo, where the worst fighting goes on and their families wait in lines for hours to buy overpriced bread.

"Even if the basic living materials, food, are available, (they are) triple or more price and it's hard to get them," said Dr. Mazen Sires.

One doctor asked a brother to get his family out of the destruction, out of the country.

"I'm extremely worried about him, I asked him to leave and they refused. That's their land, they don't want to leave," said Dr. Hussam Bitar.

This civil war will end, the doctors say, because the Syrian people will not give up this chance to be free.

"We will not go down, we will fight to the end, to the end with our souls, with our money, with our knowledge, with our medicine — whatever it takes," Alsolaimam said.

Bitar, traveled to Syria in September to treat the injured citizens near Aleppo. He was unable to fly into the country. He was unable to fly into the country, and though he wanted to help as many people as possible, that task was difficult.

Those wounded in the violence are in desperate need of help. Syrian troops have bombed 60 hospitals.

"When you see the children who got bombarded and you see the first one, you will cry no matter what," Bitar said. "Even while I was treating them; You can't control yourself. They are 6- or 7-year-olds, they are amputeed (sic)."

Bitar began his service in a hospital in a suburb of Aleppo. His family members, parents, brothers and their children live only half an hour away but could not get to them. It was too dangerous to travel in the area.

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