The Doctor in Germany: Osman al-Haj Osman
In 2012, Dr. Osman al-Haj Osman worked as a senior doctor at a front-line hospital in Aleppo, under bombardment by the Syrian government forces. At Dar al-Shifa hospital, Osman treated the people wounded by the warfare and bombardment by Syrian forces.
The Syrian government bombed the hospital six times between August and November 2012, claiming it was a "terrorist hideout," but provided no warning before the attack. The bombardment struck the hospital and the immediate vicinity at least eight times. The attack on November 21 killed at least 15 people, including four members of the volunteer medical staff.
After the hospital closed due to the bombings, Osman worked at a clinic with Doctors Without Borders. After being captured, imprisoned, and eventually released by Islamic militants, in 2013, he decided to flee to Turkey and then to Europe.
Today, Osman is practicing medicine again in the city of Trier in western Germany. He lives there with his wife and two sons.
Ahed Festuk, Assistant Coordinator of Public Outreach at Multifaith Alliance of Alliance for Syrian Refugees, interviewed Osman al-Haj Osman about the doctor's life in Syria.
Osman al-Haj Osman: My name is Osman al-Haj Osman. I was born and studied in Aleppo in northern Syria.
Ahed Festuk: What kind of work did you do in Syria before the war started?
Osman: Before the Syrian revolution, I worked as an emergency doctor in Aleppo. I had a quiet life and a high social status. My work guaranteed me a good income. But that was not the case for all. There was a strong desire to break the barrier of fear by demanding the basics of human rights: the right of freedom of expression, the right to criticize the corruption, the right of real healthcare and education.
Ahed: How did you get involved?
Osman: When the demonstrations began, I took part in it. I was arrested for four months before I went back to treat the injuries of the demonstrators. I was arrested again in 2012.
Ahed: How did you get to Europe?
Osman: In 2015, I emigrated to Europe after failing to obtain a national passport. One year later, my family joined me through the reunion program.
Ahed: What challenges did you face in Europe?
Osman: The biggest challenge I faced after my arrival in Europe was to return to my normal life— after recognizing that our dream of a nation that respects its citizens collapsed.
Ahed: What do you wish people understood about the crisis in Syria?
Osman: Wars bring out the worst in people. This is known to all. I hope the world gives us a chance to return to our humanity— and not treat us like an infectious disease.
Ahed: How can people in Europe and the United States help those who are still in Syria?
Osman: The people of the world can help the Syrian people in our crisis by emphasizing that the criminals will not be released from punishment. The impunity of criminals is a moral disaster that will encourage more crimes. Humanitarian aid gives the message to the rest of the Syrian people that there is someone who cares. There is hope.
Syrian Voices is a new video series created by MFA to share the personal stories of people affected by the crisis. By letting Syrians speak in their own words, Syrian Voices aims to help us all better understand the impact of the humanitarian crisis and share the lives, challenges, aspirations, strengths, and successes of the Syrian people.
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