Film War & Peace

Doctors on the Edge of Syria

50 Feet From Syria at the heart of civil war

In April of 2011, the Syrian Civil War began after months of peaceful protest against the Assad Family and the dictatorship of his Ba’ath Party. Syrians were united in a widespread call for democratization across the Arab nations. The Syrian government responded not with reform but with massacre. Soldiers with a conscience defected from the government, forming the Free Syrian Army, mobilizing protesters into an offensive power against the regime. By 2012, a civil war became a proxy war between international powers and terrorist networks like al-Qaeda in neighboring Iraq (which spun off to become The Islamic State aka ISIS).

The refugee crisis in Europe reveals the extraordinary displacement of 11.6 million Syrians overflowing through Turkey where already more than two million have found refuge and millions more have passed through. Some Europeans want to tighten borders, and some Americans, including Senator Rand Paul, believe that the invasion of Iraq helped cause this whole mess, therefore want to stay out to keep from making matters worse. This documentary could change the perspective of the many. It delivers a powerful look into devastated Syrian lives.

If I was in that situation, I would like to have somebody who would be able to provide care for me.

50 Feet from Syria gives you everything you need to know about the conflict to hold a heartfelt opinion. I am sure Assad would not agree, because if you accept all of the information in this film, you will be alarmed that four years have passed and every day a child has been targeted as if a terrorist. This morning, news of Russia (Assad’s ally) attacking moderate Syrian rebels with warships and jets is precisely what the west was afraid of. Syria is the fuse that could ignite another world war.

Doctor Hisham Bismar
Doctor Hisham Bismar

Doctor Hisham Bismar is followed from his American upper-middle class life as a surgeon to the Syrian border at El Amal Hospital in Reyhanli, Turkey. He left Syria thirty years prior to learn medicine in the west, similar to Assad actually, but unlike the dictator who returned to inherit a nation, Bismar never looked back, holding to his life in America and starting a family. He returns for the first time as a volunteer to the people of his homeland.

Bismar is put through every test as a doctor. His skills are stretched to accomodate complicated injuries resulting from indiscrimate barrel bombings and chemical weapons. He is stoic in the face of burned children and festering bullet wounds. He treats one Free Syrian Army fighter who states that if he were taken to a Syrian hospital, a loyalist would turn him in, and he said, “would kill my parents directly.”

Doctor Bismar is under no external pressure to return, in fact, and there is no financial reward for doing so as a volunteer. He tries to express why he wants to help with a famous World War II phrase coined by Father Martin Niemoller,

First they came for the communists, I did not speak out because I was not a communist. Then they came for the trade unionists, I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me, and there was nobody left to speak for me.

In just 37 minutes, Director Skye Fitzgerald offers an intense experience from a unique point of view. It ignores the complicated geopolitics involved; it shows children with horrible injuries, fighters and their testimony, but most of all it shows doctors volunteering to clean up this mess. In other words, it gets to the real heart of the matter. It reminds one that complacency in this conflict rests on humanity’s shoulders. As Doctor Bismar says, “if I was in that situation, I would like to have somebody who would be able to provide care for me.”

50 Feet From Syria screens at the Whitsell Auditorium tonight alongside The Wanted 18, a short feature focusing on a Palestinian dairy collective designated “a threat to the national security of the state of Israel.”

Sean Ongley

By Sean Ongley

Co-Founder of THRU Media. A background in non-profit, music, and radio preceded my ambitions here. Now, I aspire to produce new media and publish independent journalism at this site and beyond.

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