By: Elle Blincoe, Editor-in-Chief, Rosecast
The situation in Syria is ever- changing and becoming more complicated. The civil war began in 2011 with two basic sides: supporters of President Assad and the rebels. Over the years, however, many other nations have inserted themselves in the conflict, each with different goals. Russia and Iran have vowed their support to President Assad’s administration. Saudi Arabia, the U.S., and Turkey have all backed the rebel forces. This war has left its mark on the people of Syria, with approximately 106,000 documents civilian deaths and over 11 million refugees that have fled since the beginning of the war.
The violence continues to escalate. On April 7, 2018, there was an alleged chemical attack on the rebel held city of Douma.
The day began as many days in Douma have in the past: planes flew overhead, dropping bombs. Families hid as they normally do, however staffers at the town’s clinic began to notice something very different. According to Mohammed Marhoum, one of the medical staffers that day, the patients emitted a pungent smell of chlorine. That day, Mohammed alone saw 70 patients and witnessed 6 of them pass.
It was the number of patients and their symptoms that set this attack apart from the other chlorine attacks that have occurred in the past. More and more patients streamed in foaming at the mouth. Other symptoms included twitching, abnormal pupils, and some unconscious patients. None of these symptoms have been observed in the other chlorine attacks, which led medical workers to doubt that chlorine was the chemical used. Around midnight, the cold and woundless bodies of two children were brought to the hospital. The lack of injury made it clear that some chemical had in fact caused them to suffocate.
The professor of toxicology at Leeds University, Alastair W.M. Hay, said that they symptoms displayed by the patients correlates with a nerve-agent attack, which means the gas used would disrupt how the nerve transfer messages to organs. However, Russia and Syria (who are allies in this), have denied any accusation of a chemical attack. Furthermore, Russian troops have been deployed in Douma, making independent forensic investigations very unlikely.
To further corroborate their point, Russian officials and members of the Syrian Red Crescent visited the hospital housing the patients and coincidentally found no evidence of the use of chemical weapons, despite the incriminating video from immediately after the attack. Russia also vetoed a U.S. supported inquiry done by the UN Security Council after Russia’s own proposal was shot down.
The International Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) hopes to be on the ground in Douma soon, but there may be some obstacles. Mohammad Katoub of the Syrian American Medical Society claims that with the way things are with the Russian troops, local medical workers would be reluctant to give any testimony out of fear of the Russian. Without these immediate testimonies, there might not be much evidence left by the time the OPCW arrives.
According to the Syrian American Medical Society and White Helmets rescue group, the death toll is between 49 and 43. Many of the patients shared surnames, indicating that whole families were killed together.