In a civil war marked by base savagery, one of the greatest crimes committed against the Syrian people has been the routine targeting of their medical facilities. Civilians and militants alike have been affected by this blatant disregard for basic human decency. While war crimes against medical professionals and civilians have been committed by both rebel and regime forces, the greater military power of the Syrian government and their Russian allies, has damaged or destroyed much of the medical infrastructure in rebel held Aleppo. This portion of the case study investigates this particular strain of inhumanity.
Methodologically, this portion of the case study uses recent high resolution satellite imagery to assess the damage to hospitals and other major medical facilities in Aleppo. One of the most difficult tasks in this venture is actually locating the medical facilities. Many doctors and medical professionals have been forced to abandon facilities because of repeated strikes and now practice their life-saving craft in underground, improvised hospitals. Even previously open hospitals are difficult to proper locate. In this case, we make use of of a database maintained by Physicians for Human Rights, a non-profit composed of medical professionals. They have been tracking attacks on medical personnel since the beginning of the conflict. In fact they undertook a similar project, publishing a report in 2014 in conjuction with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). This case study picks up where their initial study left off, starting with attacks in Aleppo in 2014 and proceeding to present day. The image used to assess the damage is from the latter part of 2015, so the most recent attacks are not yet analyzed.
It should be noted that this is far from being a precise science. While the PHR database contains rough geographic coordinates, in most cases it is difficult to establish which building are in fact the hospital. To better assess the images, secondary soure material from news reports of the strikes is utilized to gain a better contextual understanding. In certain sites, it is still impossible to ascertain where the hospital may be located. In these instances, damage matching the description of the strike in the surrounding area is assessed if possible.
Produced by Logan Clark, for the Conflict Urbanism: Aleppo seminar at Columbia University during Spring 2016. See all student work here.