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Frank Gray | The Journal Gazette
Dr. Ammar Ghanem visits the area near his homeland of Syria regularly to provide medical care to those in need in the war-torn region.

Local Syrian doctor wants truth exposed

Ammar Ghanem, who practices medicine in Fort Wayne, is originally from Syria and still has family there.

In the past year and a half, though, since the civil war broke out in Syria, Ghanem has returned to the region four times, usually heading for hospitals just inside the borders of Turkey, Jordan or Lebanon, where he tries to treat casualties of the fighting.

Awhile back he was even interviewed on public radio as he donned a red backpack full of medical supplies and headed out on a dangerous trip across the border into Syria to help people in areas where medical help was being denied.

In the last few days of the 2 1/2 -year war, though, Ghanem has become particularly upset. Inside Syria rebels are claiming that the Assad regime has attacked civilian areas with chemical weapons, leaving hundreds dead. The American media, though, haven’t given it much attention, at least not as much as Ghanem thinks it should be getting.

“I feel a need to speak out,” Ghanem said. “Most Americans don’t know the truth. Some don’t care. They don’t know the reality on the ground.”

From a humanitarian standpoint, attacking civilians in their homes is a crime, he said. “The whole of the human race should be ashamed that this is happening in the 21st century.”

The Syrian government has denied using chemical weapons.

“But who has chemical weapons and the means to launch them?” Ghanem asks. “Why don’t they allow the U.N. to go in? They let them in a week later (Monday), and then they shoot at them.”

Ghanem, who speaks with doctors on the ground in Syria regularly, said the gas attack took place at 3 a.m. Wednesday, when everyone was asleep and their windows were open because it was hot outside.

Other than a gas attack, “What would cause a mass casualty like this?” Ghanem asks.

He said people were breaking into houses and finding entire families dead. The dead had no cuts or physical injuries. He said doctors were collecting samples from the site, but they couldn’t get them out and no one would let the U.N. in to inspect.

Ghanem thinks foreign powers must intervene in Syria, to take steps to prevent the regime from continuing using chemical weapons.

“They’re going to use more. If no one intervenes, they will use more,” Ghanem said. “The rest of the world will be giving the regime the green light to continue.

“They’re criminal people. They’ll kill anyone they want to. If no one steps in, they will continue the attacks.”

If foreign powers stepped in, though, the situation would change very quickly, he said.

It’s a tough call.

We fought a war in Afghanistan, then Iraq, then got involved in Libya and watched Egypt descend into turmoil. Getting involved in Syria won’t be a popular move among a lot of people, at least not right now.

For Ghanem, though, it’s his homeland.

Frank Gray reflects on his and others’ experiences in columns published Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. He can be reached by phone at 461-8376, by fax at 461-8893, or by email at fgray@jg.net. You can also follow him on Twitter @FrankGrayJG.

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