Haytham Khoury is a physician and researcher, and works at Vancouver General Hospital, Vancouver, BC, Canada. He is also a political writer with an interest in Syrian affairs.
He was born in Damascus, Syria, in 1965. He obtained his medical degree from the University of Aleppo in 1988. Thereafter, he carried out a specialization in Hematology at the University of Rennes, France, and a fellowship in Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation at the Leukemia/BMT program of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada. Also, Dr. Khoury has carried out Ph.D. degree in Molecular and Cellular Biology at the University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada. He has published a significant number of research papers and review article in the field of leukemia.
In addition to his passion for Medicine, Haytham Khoury has noticeable interest in the Middle-East politics, particularly the Syrian affairs. Indeed, he is a founding member of the Syrian Democratic Forum (SDF), one of the opposition groups in Syria that promotes change in Syria through peaceful means.
A friend of mine, Naji Jerf, was assassinated on the 27 of December 2015 in the southern Turkish city of Gaziantep. He was a brave Syrian journalist and documentary film maker. During the past 5 years, his life has been an epic journey of escape from death. However, his fate was sealed last Sunday by a coward pistol bullet.
When the peaceful uprising started in Syria in March 2011, Naji was among the first people to participate in the demonstrations. His aspirations for freedom and democracy were more powerful than his fear from the Syrian regime oppressive machine. He was interrogated multiple times by the Syrian security apparatus and threatened of imprisonment and torture, but he did not flinch. The regime’s thugs harassed him repeatedly, but he was not silenced. However, in 2013 for the safety of his family, he was forced to leave Syria and seek refuge in the southern Turkish city of Gaziantep.
During his stay in Gaziantep, he established and occupied the position of editor in chief of a magazine in Arabic language called, Hentah. Hentah started as a small caliber news magazine, according to its web site reporting on "the scenes of the everyday life of the Syrian citizen", with a focus on Naji’s small Syrian town, Salamiyeh. However, with time it transformed to be a national platform for Syrian civil society, in which aspirations and vision for new democratic and plural Syria are expressed. Due to his success with Hentah magazine, Naji was appointed in 2014 a director of an influential Syrian opposition media foundation, Bassmat Syria.
The 21st of August 2013 was not a usual day for Syrians. In that day, hundreds of thousands of Syrians woke up, filled of panic, on the sound of extreme explosions. They soon realized that it was the Assad’s missiles. Indeed, this was not the first time, but this time the explosions were greater.
Soon after the explosions, the people started to feel sick. They felt irritations in their eyes, noses, throats and respiratory tracts. These symptoms progressed into malaise, vomiting and suffocation. Many lost their consciousness and died.
Certainly, they suffered a lot, before passing away. No doubt, their families were agonized, seeing them passing away due to suffocation. More than 10.000 people were affected; roughly, 1500 lost their life, most of them are women and children. It was not difficult for the people to understand that they were victims of a poisonous gas; indeed, it was the sarin gas.
The Syrian people has been used to the Assad’s regime criminal behavior for the last 40 years, particularly since 2011. However, this time, its criminality surpassed all imagination. Its defiance and mockery of the international community exceeded all limits. This attack took place only 3 days after the arrival of the UN chemical-weapons investigators to Damascus to probe other suspected chemical attacks carried out by the regime. The regime prevented the team from timely visiting the places of the new attacks, on the ground that their mandate does not include investigating these sites.
On Political and Military Targets - Since the first day of the uprising, the regime has been killing people on a daily basis with mounting brutality and increasing number of casualties. Certainly, It would not be able to do so, if was held accountable and punished for its actions.
On the first day of the uprising, March 18, 2013, the regime killed two people. These were among who came that day to the security service office to claim the release of members of their families, teen-aged kids (from 10 to 13-year old boys) detained and their nails pulled out for writing graffiti against the regime.
Because it symbolizes the ruthlessness of the Syrian secret service, the above-mentioned incident triggered countrywide demonstrations claiming freedom and dignity. The regime response was denying the rightful demands of the people and firing on peaceful demonstrators with live ammunitions, killing 20-40 persons every day.
The Syrian regime has committed on Wednesday a new crime. However, this time is like never before.
On Wednesday August 21, the Syrian regime forces have bombarded more than 10 towns and villages in al Ghota, an area surrounding the capital Damascus, with surface-to-surface missiles likely carrying chemical weapons, leaving more than 1360 deaths with roughly 60% of them are children and women.
Just after 2 AM, Damascus time, heavy bombing were heard in these areas. All the places bombarded were residential areas where innocent civilians live. Just after the bombings, people at their homes started to feel sick with irritation in their noses, throat and chests. These symptoms were followed by runny nose and shortness of breath. Many people died at their homes. Others were taken to make-shift hospitals set up in schools and mosques.
The Syrian regime forces have bombarded this morning the Eastern and Western Ghouta, in the suburbs of Damascus, with surface-to-surface missiles carrying chemical weapons.
As a result, thousands of people have become sick and hundreds, most of them are children, have passed away.
Indeed, the Syrian regime continues its cruelty and its use of all the internationally-banned mass-destruction weapons that it possesses against innocent civilians, thus ignoring all the humanitarian warnings issued by the United Nations and regional and international countries.
The Syrian Democratic Forum appeals on the UN chemical-weapons investigative team, present currently in Syria, to head to the target sites in Eastern Ghouta, expeditiously, to investigate these serious violations.
Furthermore, we demand the opening of humanitarian corridors that ensure the arrival of medical aid, as the shortage of this aid has caused the death of scores of innocent civilians.
The pressure that the Arabic countries and the international community have exerted on the Syrian regime last week is the precursor of a continuously mounting pressure that we will culminate shortly by UN Security Council decision declaring that the regime has committed crime against humanity and submitting an indictment of its leaders to the International Criminal Court, and thus leading to the regime’s downfall. These developments indicate that Bashar lacks completely the sense of the reality, the resilience and the shrewdness.
Although I did not agree with the way with which Hafez Assad governed Syria, I found that his survival instinct is better than that his son has. This survival instinct was not possible without having some kind of sense of the reality, resilience and shrewdness.
When Salah Jedid was irritating Israel by firing artilleries from the Golan Heights onto the Galilee Valley, which was one of the reasons for 1976 war, Hafez Assad understood that was a dangerous strategy. Hafez Assad stopped these immature acts.
When Turkey put >30000 soldiers on the Syrian border in 1998, Hafez Assad did not move any. He did not panic. However, he understood that he should hand over Ojlan. As can be seen from both examples, Hafez Assad had certain sense of the reality, resilience and shrewdness.
On the other hand, Hafez al-Assad showed a deficient vision for Syria. He viewed Syria as a means for his vain glory. He viewed Syria as a regional power not for the sake of Syria and its people, but for the sake of his own self-image. Indeed, he destroyed the Syrian economy and social cohesiveness in order to consolidate his power internally and achieve the image that he conceived for himself externally. What Hafez Assad did not understand was that no regional or international power can be real or persists for long time with getting its strategic depth from the creativity of its individuals, the cohesiveness of its society and the strength of its economy.