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03/06/2013

A Syrian psychiatrist on his country's future

AMMAN --I spent Wednesday afternoon talking to a Syrian psychiatrist in Amman who is treating refugees.  Dr. Mohammad Abo Hilal is a well-known figure and he escaped to Jordan after being arrested last year at his practice in Damascus. He was tortured by the regime.

He generously gave me a couple of hours to talk to his busy team of Syrian psychologists at a little clinic in a residential neighbourhood of Jordan’s capital.

They were hospitable, and along with cups of hot Turkish coffee they shared horrific stories of how their patients had been brutalized by the war.

At the end I told them how sorry I was that Syria was being torn apart and hoped the conflict would end soon. It was inadequate, of course.

What could anyone possibly say? The doctors smiled politely. They had heard this many times before from outsiders.  Dr. Abo Hilal said he would like to talk politics for a few minutes. He was calm but could not contain the bitterness in his voice.

“You are a journalist from the western world and I will not let you leave without giving you this message to send to Canadians. We asked for freedom and democracy. We thought that the free world would help us. We told diplomats that if they did not help us more violent people, more radical people would take over Syria. And the free world will see sectarianism and al Qaeda. America invaded Iraq over one fake statement,” he said, referring to the discredited claim that Saddam Hussein could launch weapons of mass destruction in 45 minutes.

“We have produced a million videos that show people dying and suffering but it has not helped. So now we are recording them for history, not help from the free world. You tell us about human rights and women rights? But you in the free world have lost your legitimacy.

This UN Security Council is a non-democratic gang. The Syrian people have had a civilization for 7,000 years.  After 50 years of this malignant regime we will end it and start contributing to the world’s civilization. We will show the world how wrong they were.”

Hamida Ghafour is a foreign affairs reporter at The Star. She has lived and worked in the Middle East and Asia for more than 10 years and is the author of a book on Afghanistan. Follow her on Twitter @HamidaGhafour

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