Turkish strike kills international medical volunteer in northern Syria

An ambulance surrounded by destruction and smoke rising in Ras al Ayn on 20 October
Tom Anderson

A Burmese medic volunteering in north-eastern Syria was killed in a Turkish strike on Sunday 3 November while trying to reach wounded people.

Zhao Sang was a volunteer with the Free Burma Rangers. The following video clip shows fellow medic Dave Eubank speaking about how Zhao Sang was killed:


In the video clip, Eubank confirms that the team was attacked 4km outside Tell Tamer (Girê Xurma). Two more of Zhao Sang’s team were injured and are receiving treatment.

The Free Burma Rangers (FBR) are a “multi-ethnic humanitarian service movement working to help free the oppressed in Burma, Syria, Iraq and Kurdistan”. According to Eubank, Sang had come to Syria to help the wounded because of his experiences in Burma (Myanmar). And because people had come to Burma in solidarity:

He said ‘I’ll go to help… because people helped me. And the whole world, we all count the same. So he came in love and he left in love.’

The Canary contacted the Turkish embassy in London for comment about Sang’s death, but had not received a reply at the time of publishing.

Turkish invasion, ethnic cleansing and war crimes

Turkish-led forces invaded Rojava on 9 October. The NATO member has faced accusations of ethnic cleansing and war crimes, and its illegal invasion has so far killed over 300 civilians, created around 300,000 displaced people, and allowed hundreds of Daesh (Isis/Isil) supporters to escape detention.

Medics under attack

Thomas McClure of the Rojava Information Center (RIC) told The Canary:

The Turkish-backed forces’ targeting of the medical team of the Free Burma Rangers with artillery is unfortunately just the latest in a series of incidents where Turkey and Turkish-backed forces have targeted clearly-marked medical staff – both from the ground with artillery and also from the air with air strikes, which clearly indicates that this is the Turkish armed forces taking these decisions to attack medical staff, not just the Turkish-backed jihadi groups that they’re using on the ground.

Tweets from RIC list the following incidents targeting health facilities and health workers since the beginning of the invasion:

On 22 October, RIC reported that a Kurdish Red Crescent ambulance team was attacked. RIC interviewed a medic called Kawa in Tell Tamer:

A war against the civilian population

McClure told The Canary:

Why is Turkey doing this? This war from the beginning has been conducted as a war not just against military but against civilian targets; not only medical staff but also water infrastructure, electricity infrastructure, bakeries and so on. Turkey is trying to conduct a total war to terrify civilians, to prevent humanitarian aid – we saw that most of the international humanitarian actors have already pulled a lot of staff out of Northeast Syria because of this attack.

In this way, Turkey hopes to more easily occupy this land. It knows that its war is not just against military targets, it’s also against the civilian population. This is clearly shown by the attacks on medical staff. That is the logic behind these attacks.

Eubank, meanwhile, tweeted:

He also said:

Featured image via RIC

Get involved

Tom Anderson is part of the Shoal Collective, a cooperative producing writing for social justice and a world beyond capitalism. Twitter: @shoalcollective

We need your help ...

The coronavirus pandemic is changing our world, fast. And we will do all we can to keep bringing you news and analysis throughout. But we are worried about maintaining enough income to pay our staff and minimal overheads.

Now, more than ever, we need a vibrant, independent media that holds the government to account and calls it out when it puts vested economic interests above human lives. We need a media that shows solidarity with the people most affected by the crisis – and one that can help to build a world based on collaboration and compassion.

We have been fighting against an establishment that is trying to shut us down. And like most independent media, we don’t have the deep pockets of investors to call on to bail us out.

Can you help by chipping in a few pounds each month?

The Canary Support us