Syria: MSF rejects militarized humanitarian corridors

February 17, 2012

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Syria: MSF rejects militarized humanitarian corridors © J.B. Russell

For Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), the issue in Syria today is to demilitarize hospitals – not to militarize humanitarian aid.

As Syrian armed forces lead a new assault against the city of Homs, the French Minister of Foreign Affairs continues to call for the creation of "humanitarian corridors" in the country, as he has since February 14. According to Alain Juppé, the goal of this initiative would be to deliver "medical products" and other basic supplies to the besieged cities, with military back-up, if necessary, to "protect the humanitarian convoys … as in Libya."

"Rather than shielding medical care workers and facilities from war and repression, establishing humanitarian corridors would militarize medical aid and make it a target," stated Dr. Marie-Pierre Allié, president of Médecins Sans Frontières.

Demonstrators have been strafed and insurgent neighborhoods bombed in Homs and Hama, wounding many civilians. But lack of medicine and medical workers are not to blame for the lack of appropriate care. Rather, patients have been denied treatment because of the regime's terror tactics, which include arresting and torturing the wounded who go to public hospitals and conducting a merciless war against the clandestine medical networks treating the victims of repression.

The primary issue for medical workers and humanitarian organizations today is to obtain -- from all parties to the conflict and starting with the Syrian government – the demilitarization of areas in which to provide care and the routes supplying them. Mandating an armed international force to transport medical supplies would be a disaster in that regard.

Médecins Sans Frontières supports the diplomatic efforts seeking to restore the neutrality of hospitals and to provide the besieged cities with vital supplies. On the other hand, the association opposes militarized humanitarian corridors, as it has opposed them in other conflict situations. If France intends to provide military support to the Syrian opposition, it would be both hypocritical and dangerous to do so in the name of protecting the wounded and medical workers.

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