Injured Syrian Rebels Recuperate in Turkish Hospitals
In Antakya, Turkey, injured Syrian rebels are being provided with free treatment at the city’s public hospitals. One patient, named Yasser, is currently recuperating from gunshot wounds. He says he wants to return to the fight, but only after getting his family out of Syria.
These days, Syrian rebels sometimes seem to know more about the public hospital in the Turkish city of Antakya — known in ancient times as Antioch — than the health professionals working there. The Turkish nurses, doctors and ward heads aren’t even sure how many Syrians are currently being treated at the hospital. But Yasser does. “We currently have around 50 fighters with the Free Syrian Army being provided with treatment,” he says. “Three of them are in the orthopaedic ward; please follow me.” He then limps ahead through the emergency room’s hallways, which are overflowing with patients.
The only thing that reveals the fact that Yasser is an injured rebel is the thick bandage on his left foot. With his Adidas shirt, baseball cap and sandals, the jovial 30-year-old looks like he could be on vacation. He’s also so frail that it would be hard to imagine him carrying an AK-47. But only two months ago, he was using one for the first time to fire against the soldiers of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
“My home was under threat,” Yasser says. “So I grabbed my weapon. I had to protect my family.” He’s originally from Haffa, a small city in the mountainous backcountry along the coast. In June, the city made international headlines when the Syrian army began an offensive on Haffa with artillery and combat helicopters. The army first permitted United Nations observers to enter the city in mid-June. By then, nary a soul could be found in Haffa.