🎗️Amani Ballour🎗️ is a 33-years-old medical doctor. She worked in an underground field hospital known as “the Cave”, from 2013 to 2018, during the 6-year long siege imposed by Assad forces on Eastern Ghouta Damascus suburbs, where she lived along with 1.5 million plus Syrians. Ballour managed the hospital from 2016 to 2018, where she witnessed war crimes, massacres and chemical attacks against the population. The Cave was targeted by airstrikes more than 20 times by Assad’s forces, and later Russian warplanes. Daily life there was documented in the multiple-award winning documentary film “The Cave”, directed by Feras Fayyad, which was nominated in 2020 for an Oscar for Best Documentary. 🏆
Ballour studied in Damascus medical university. She was a fifth year medical student when the revolution started and began secretly participating in the protests. After graduating in 2012 she dedicated herself totally to the Syrian Revolution, by volunteering in an underground hospital consisting of an operating room and an emergency room, run by Salim Nimour, a general surgeon.
Faced with the intensity of daily war crimes and massacres committed by the regime, the hospital expanded quickly into a large underground hospital of tunnels and bunkers. From 2013 to 2018, Ballour and the hospital staff treated thousands of victims of the regime’s atrocities, with minimal means, including indiscriminate bombing, sarin and chlorine attacks. Among them, she witnessed the 2013 sarin gas attack by Assad on civilians causing more than 1200 deaths.
Ballour told the National Geographic she still recalls the first mass casualties she saw and the smell of burnt charred bodies, some of the victims still alive. In ABC News and Al Jazeera interviews, she stated: “I saw thousands of children, I called them my children because I loved them; we couldn’t help a lot of children, a lot died because of the bombing, a lot died because of the chemical attacks.”
Due to her engagement and great capabilities, she was elected as a manager of the Cave from 2016 to 2018, until Assad forces finally gained control of Eastern Ghouta, forcing civilians and hospital staff to flee. Ballour went to Idlib, and then was forced into exile in Turkey. She told the National Geographic she still recalls the pain she felt while leaving behind her cherished white coat that she had worn since she was a medical student; “It was so bloody that I couldn’t take it with me… it was very special to me.”
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