Amid ongoing violence in Syria, Mohammad Arabi, a radiologist at the University Hospital, protested yesterday in honor of his deceased relative, an orthopedic surgeon who was killed during his efforts to aid wounded protesters in Syria.

“They kept chasing him, chasing him until they killed him,” Arabi said.

Arabi, joined by more than 20 local doctors from the Syrian community, gathered yesterday at the corner of South State Street and North University Avenue to protest the continuing violence against medical personnel in Syria who have been aiding protesters harmed for rallying for the forced resignation of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

“We have our relatives there, we have our families there and we are very concerned about our colleagues, doctors and nurses who are working under very bad, distressing circumstances,” Arabi said.

Since the protests began last March, Syrian police and military continue to attack protesters with tanks, snipers and tear gas at various rallies in an attempt to silence the opposition, according to reports from Al Jazeera, a Middle Eastern news source. The United Nations estimated the number of protestors killed to be over 5,000 people.

There have also been attacks on the medical personnel who have attempted to treat protesters, The Los Angeles Times reported. Arabi said he hopes protests like the one held yesterday can help spur increased support to help doctors in Syria who may be in danger.

“We need to increase the pressure on the international community and the international society to help the medical community (do its) jobs in Syria without fear of any repression,” he said.

Arabi said the work provided by Syrian medical personnel to protesters is not only crucial, but also a part of their duty as doctors.

“We need to treat patients regardless of their political background, regardless of their ethical background,” he said. “(We need to) do our duty (and) fulfill our oath.”

Nour Akhras, a pediatrician at Children’s Hospital of Michigan in Detroit, said she participated in the protest because of the difficult conditions faced by medical personnel in Syria.

“I think it is appalling that physicians in Syria are being attacked while they are trying to attend to wounded protesters,” she said.

Akhras said she went to Turkey to treat Syrian refugees in the refugee camps there. The United Nations estimated that the government crackdown on the protests resulted in more than 12,400 Syrian refugees.

Like Arabi, Akhras said she hopes the protest will raise awareness about the violence in Syria.

“I don’t know if a lot of the people know that the citizens in Syria are being attacked and tortured, imprisoned and threatened,” Akhras said.

Akhras, a native Syrian with relatives in Homs, Syria — the epicenter of the protests — said a resolution to the violence in Syria is important to her.

“I am in between night shifts but I came today, although I am super tired, because this is a worthy cause,” she said.

— Katie Szymanski contributed to this report.

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