Friday, 17 February 2017

Local doctor offers personal look at Syrian crisis

ANNE REINER/Sun-Gazette 
Dr. Rodwan Raijoub speaks about the Syrian refugee crisis during the United Churches of Lycoming County Ecumenical Lunch on Wednesday afternoon at the New Covenant United Church of Christ.

 'The innocent lives lost and families displaced in Syria deserve a humanitarian response and must not be forgotten, a local medical doctor and Syrian immigrant says.

 “The amount of devastation I have seen is beyond imagination,” said Dr. Rodwan Rajjoub, a local neurosurgeon with UPMC Susquehanna who immigrated from Syria in 1973. “What’s the purpose? I don’t know.”

 Since 2011, Rodwan Rajjoub has traveled to several Syrian refugee camps throughout Jordan and Turkey, volunteering his time to the Syrian American Medical Society, a nonprofit that offers medical assistance to refugees.

 “These people need help because no one is helping them,” Rodwan Rajjoub said. He said much of the medical assistance he provides is to help children who are now quadriplegic or paraplegic due to gunshot wounds or explosions.

 He told the one story of a girl who will never walk again. She is one of many in similar situations.

 “At least she’s alive. The bullet went into her back,” he said. “I don’t know what her crime is. She’s only 4 years old.”

 The examination rooms Rodwan Rajjoub worked in had none of the modern amenities that makes medical work so efficient in the United States. There was no computer, no table and no records, he said.

 Many injuries were so profound, there was little that could be done to help people with the tools he had available.

 The Syria that Rodwan and Zokaa Rajjoub grew up in was much different than the Syria of today. He pressed his audience to name a terrorist who has come out of Syria from 1975 to 2016.

 “If you find one, let me know,” Rodwan Rajjoub said. He remembered that years ago people of all different beliefs and nationalities lived in Syria together.

 The conflict in Syria between rebel forces and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad commonly is known as a civil war, but that’s not how everyone sees it.

 “It’s not a civil war, it’s a revolution,” said Zokaa Rajjoub. It’s the poor in society rising up against Assad, who refuses to distribute his immense wealth to his starving citizens, the Raijoubs said.

 It began as peaceful protests and turned violent when the government began killing the protesters, they said. Now the government is killing everyone, they said.

 Zokaa Rajjoub recounted a time several years ago when she returned to Syria to visit her father who was near death. After going to the mosque, she came outdside and saw a group of protestors. Government forces drove up and began shooting, she said.

 “It was just so scary. They were just shooting randomly,” she said. “I just experienced it once. I don’t know how people live like that. I really don’t.”

 Worldwide attention to the devastation in Syria increased as refugees began fleeing their homes. Those who didn’t want to fight were forced out because their homes were destroyed and their family and friends were dying.

 “I don’t know who as a human being could accept this,” Rodwan Rajjoub said, referring specifically to the destruction of the city of Aleppo. “Imagine if half the United States were forced out of their homes.”

But despite the turmoil, many Syrians do not want to leave, he said. Many want to return to the place where they grew up and raised families, but in many cases it no longer exists.

“No one would like to leave his home,” Rodwan Rajjoub said.'

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