Saving a Syrian University Student’s Life

May 7, 2013
Injured Man Receives Medical Assistance in Syria

Ghassan, a university student from Rif Damascus, was heading home from classes when fighting broke out between regime and rebel fighters. Ghassan was not able to take cover in time and was hit by shrapnel in both legs.

When the fighting died down, he was taken to a nearby USAID-supported field hospital, where doctors found a closed fracture in his right leg and shrapnel wounds in his left foot. Luckily, the femoral artery in his leg was not hit and he only suffered a bone fracture, but no displacement. The doctors removed the shrapnel, cleaned the wounds, and cast his right leg.

Ghassan stayed at the hospital for nine days while the doctors treated his injuries. He continues to visit the hospital when he is able and sometimes receives USAID-supported doctors at his home. Since February 2012, USAID has provided support to over 144 field hospitals, medical clinics, and medical points across Syria that have saved countless lives, including Ghassan's.

Ghassan thanks the doctors and those who support them for their help in treating his injuries. His father was killed in crossfire six months ago, but Ghassan says he still wishes to follow in his father’s footsteps and continue studying for his business degree when his injuries have healed.

About the Author: Rebecca Gustafson serves on the U.S. Agency for International Development's (USAID) Syria Response Management Team.

The United States has provided nearly $409 million in humanitarian assistance to help those affected by the ongoing crisis in Syria. Go to USAID's website to learn more about the crisis. A list of humanitarian organizations that are accepting donations for response efforts in Syria can be found at



Henry M.
United States
May 8, 2013
Consider this: if the U.S. discontinued its policy of imposing "regime change" upon nation after nation at the behest of the British, tragedies of this sort could be avoided.
Eric J.
United States
May 8, 2013
Henry, Consider this; If folks simply were granted the opportunity to engage in "regime replacement therapy" by the vote like we do in America every time we go to the polls to elect a new President (every 4 years..8 if the incumbant is lucky)...then these situations wouldn't arise and require our intervention in the first place. Nor would the people of any nation feel the need to pick up arms to engage in "regime change" to obtain their freedom from tyrants or require our support to do so. (just saying...)
Henry M.
United States
May 9, 2013
First of all, these situations do not "require our intervention." In fact, under the UN charter, our "intervention" is illegal. Suppose, Eric, that the legitimacy of a US presidential election were to be called into question, as was the case in 2004 due to charges of "voter suppression" in Ohio. In such a case, if another nation were to spend substantial funds to train and equip foreign mercenaries and bring them into the US to lead an insurrection against an allegedly illegitimate government, what would your reaction be? And in the "regime change" wars that have been prosecuted by the UK and US during the Bush/Obama years, how many of the target nations may be said to have "obtained their freedom"? Don't kid yourself.
Eric J.
United States
May 13, 2013


As the substance of the topic here suggests, the US is already "intervening" in Syria to save lives. About a half billion worth of "intervention" and still no end to the slaughter. While some would suggest that this is "not our fight", or that military intervention to eliminate Assad's capacity to make war on his people would be a "mistake"; the trends on the ground would indicate that this conflict will not be limited to the territorial boundaries of Syria, thus representing a threat to international peace and security. The UN charter accepts the right of any nation to defend itself, and all member states signatory to the UN's convention on the prevention of genocide have the obligation to intervene in a manner befitting the circumstance. As a member of Nato, the US has treaty obligations botyh as a member and as well to other allied governments in the region not members of Nato. Turkey is a member of Nato.

I'd point you to the following as just one example of a "lesson learned" that dictators seldom change their mindsets before their political stupidity and typicly genocidal nature leads them to become involved in a war with America.

Appeal of President Franklin D. Roosevelt on Aerial Bombardment of Civilian Populations, September 1, 1939

The President of the United States to the Governments of France, Germany, Italy, Poland and His Britannic Majesty, September 1, 1939

The ruthless bombing from the air of civilians in unfortified centers of population during the course of the hostilities which have raged in various quarters of the earth during the past few years, which has resulted in the maiming and in the death of thousands of defenseless men, women, and children, has sickened the hearts of every civilized man and woman, and has profoundly shocked the conscience of humanity.

If resort is had to this form of inhuman barbarism during the period of the tragic conflagration with which the world is now confronted, hundreds of thousands of innocent human beings who have no responsibility for, and who are not even remotely participating in, the hostilities which have now broken out, will lose their lives. I am therefore addressing this urgent appeal to every government which may be engaged in hostilities publicly to affirm its determination that its armed forces shall in no event, and under no circumstances, undertake the bombardment from the air of civilian populations or of unfortified cities, upon the understanding that these same rules of warfare will be scrupulously observed by all of their opponents. I request an immediate reply.



  Many debates have taken place in UN fora on the "responsibility to protect" populations ...and I'll just add a few excerpts from the following;


-between supporters of a "right of humanitarian intervention" and those who argued that state sovereignty, as recognised in the UN Charter, precluded any intervention in internal matters.

The R2P concept was aimed at bridging that gap. It originated with the report of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty, The Responsibility to Protect, in 2001, and became a central theme in the recommendations of the UN High-Level Panel, A More Secure World, in 2004 and of the UN Secretary-General, In Larger Freedom, in 2005.

What is current status of the R2P idea?

The world's heads of state and government unanimously accepted the concept of R2P at the UN World Summit in September 2005. The Security Council has also accepted the general principle.

But the task remains, as each new danger of mass atrocity crimes threatens, to translate that principled acceptance into effective action — at the international, national and community level.

What is R2P?

The responsibility of states, and where they fail the international community, to protect civilians from mass atrocity crimes.

Why does R2P matter?

Because it's the right thing to do: our common humanity demands that the world never again sees another Holocaust, Cambodia, Rwanda or Bosnia.

Because it's in every country’s interest: states that can't or won't stop internal mass atrocity crimes are states that can't or won't stop terrorism, weapons proliferation, the spread of health pandemics and other global risks.

What kind of action does R2P require?

Overwhelmingly, prevention:  through measures aimed in particular at building state capacity, remedying grievances, and ensuring the rule of law.

But if prevention fails, R2P requires whatever measures – economic, political, diplomatic, legal, security or in the last resort military – become necessary to stop mass atrocity crimes occurring.

Whose responsibility is R2P?

For individual states, R2P means the responsibility to protect their own citizens, and to help other states build their capacity to do so.

For international organisations, including the UN, R2P means the responsibility to warn, to generate effective prevention strategies, and when necessary to mobilise effective reaction.

For civil society groups and individuals, R2P means the responsibility to force the attention of policy-makers on what needs to be done, by whom and when.


  So as an individual, I'm also under an obligation to "force the attention of policy makers on what needs to be done, by whom, and when."

  Thus regardless of the difficulty politically, economicly or logisticly it may be to eliminate Assad's capacity to continue to slaughter his people, any further failure to achieve a "political solution" through diplomacy to achieve a lasting peace, must then bring military intervention "off the table" and into concrete implementation without delay.

  That any further inability of the UN Sec. Council to act, requires nations go beyond that framework if peace and security is to be restored to the region, not just Syria. The threat of a wider regional war occuring is far greater if nations fail to reach consensus, but failure to act militarily in a timely manner will garrantee that one takes place. Folks are flat running out of time to make a choice after two years of diplomatic paralysis in the UN, and millions have paid the price for that already.

  "How long would you be content to continue being witness to this?"  It only took 31 days for the UN to authorize the use of force to protect the Libyan population...which happens to be the average gestation period of a rabbit. The UN in Syria's case has taken longer than the gestation period of a blue whale, and produced nothing tangible in the way of a chapter 7 resolution, let alone any solution.

 I don't really care if you choose to answer this question or not Henry, this question is directed to the US gov. and its leadership.


Henry M.
United States
May 14, 2013
"R2P", more properly called the Tony Blair Doctrine, is nothing new. Hitler's intervention in the Sudetenland was justified to the world as a measure to protect people there who were supposedly the victims of atrocities. It is customary, when launching some sort of military aggression, to label the target of the aggression a dictator, and to insist that one's motives are purely altruistic and humanitarian. It is only with the hindsight of history that we know that this is not always actually the case. By the way, the most harsh authoritarian regimes in the region are those of the Saudi monarchy and the Arab Emirates. Why don't we have a "responsibility to protect" those who suffer under their regimes? That's the $64,000 question.
Eric J.
United States
May 22, 2013


  Thanks for helping me illustrate my point despite your "revisionist history lesson" you've offered up...I mean if the had been a PM with the cojones of Tony Blair at the time of the Munich conference, Hitler would have been stopped in his tracks and FDR wouldn't have had to write that letter upon the start of Hitler's invasion of Poland.

And to answer your $64,000 question ....You may consider these nations to be the "most harsh" , but they arn't slaughtering their people.

I think anyone with a heart would have to ask themselves, " How long should the nations of the world remain passive witness to Assad's genocide of the Syrian people?" I don't believe anyone in the US government could be "content" in this, but I phased my question previosly using that term in order to remind folks that no one can be.."content"  Except for those who would appease dictators and offer support of one kind or another.

For the US, a half billion in humanitarian assistance is a significant effort to save lives. But is as if one were trying to put bandaids on a person who's suffered a thousand cuts as fast as possible to keep him from bleeding out, and all the while no one is willing to take the knife away from his attacker.

Whether we want to become militarily involved or not as a nation isn't really the question, for we certainly will when this crisis engulfs the entire region more than it already has, with increasing violence as an existential threat to the peace and security of nations.

The choice the President has is one of when and how, but that choice is but a temporary luxury cloaked in a political conundrum, while diplomacy becomes utterly exhausted.

As Mark Twain once put it, "History never repeats itself, but sometimes it rhymes."


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