World Health Organisation giving Bashar Assad's bloodthirsty regime a seat on the board is an outrage – Scotsman comment

In March 2011, inspired by the Arab Spring protests that had swept Tunisia’s dictator from power a few weeks before, peaceful, pro-democracy protests began in the Syrian city of Deraa.

Dozens of medical workers protest against a decision to grant Syrian President Bashar Assad's government a seat on the executive board of the World Health Organisation in Idlib, Syria (Picture: AP)

However, Syrian dictator Bashar Assad chose not to flee or negotiate, but to order his armed forces to kill his own people. Ten years later, he is still killing them.

The Syrian Network for Human Rights estimates that, since the civil war began, more than 227,000 civilians have been killed along with another 250,000 armed combatants from all sides.

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According to a report on Syria by Human Rights Watch, the “Syrian-Russian military alliance [has] continued to deliberately and indiscriminately attack civilian objects – including schools, hospitals, markets, homes, and shelters”. It also says that nearly 15,000 people are thought to been tortured to death, mostly by Syrian government forces, since 2011.

And yet now, just days after Assad was re-elected president with “95.1” per cent of the vote – according to the ridiculous fiction spun by his regime that Syria is some kind of a democracy – an Assad government appointee will today take a seat on the executive board of the World Health Organisation.

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According to the WHO’s own “overview” of Syria, “nearly a quarter of all hospitals and one third of all primary health care centres remain non-functional”; half the 20.5 million people who live in the country are in “dire need of health assistance”; about 500,000 children are chronically malnourished; and there is a “chronic shortage of health care staff driven by displacement, death, injury, and flight of health workers”.

The reason, it claims, is that there is a “protracted political and socio-economic crisis”, an Orwellian metaphor for what has actually been happening on the ground in Syria, day after day after day for ten years.

As the Covid pandemic has shown, the WHO has to live in the real world, a world of democracies and dictators. And it must be tremendously difficult to deal with the latter.

However, there has to be a way for the “World Health Organisation” – of all international bodies – to avoid handing a propaganda coup to such a brutal tyrant who illegitimately holds power after inheriting it from his father, and keeps it by killing civilians, torturing prisoners, and bombing schools and hospitals.

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