Translating Humanitarian Emergency into Medical Aid in Syria

Claire Glasscoe


This website although live on the web is not complete – it is a work in progress and intended to be collaborative so feedback is welcome via the blog & contact pages.

I am a photographer, writer and researcher with a collection of works published in scientific and creative media that are connected by virtue of being documentary and health related. My background is in psychotherapy and research, documenting stories about diversity, adversity and resilience. Although the narrative has led the way in my storytelling I am also fascinated by visual imagery as a means of communication beyond words. This project brings together both aspects of the way I hope to present personal experiences with both images and words.

The conflict in Syria grabbed my attention from the start of the revolution. I could not believe what I was seeing in the news and felt a powerful affinity for the plight of the Syrian people not least because of the collective sacrifice they were making for justice, freedom and a democratic voice.

Message from the people of Homs during a peaceful protest in 2012 - still image from a video
entitled 'The Killing of Journalists' posted by the Syria Campaign on Facebook

The targeting of journalists, killing Marie Colvin and Remi Ochlik and the way the people protected two other journalists injured, Edith Bouvier and Paul Conroy, who is talking here on YouTube at a Times Plus event about the experience, leading them to safety across the border at the expense of their own lives, sealed my resolve to stand in solidarity against this oppressive regime. I promised to myself that those who had fallen would be replaced. A Syrian friend from Homs who is also an artist and a poet with an extraordinary ability to articulate human experience talked with me at length about his experience of Syria. Over several years he brought his homeland alive for me with his descriptive telling – the sounds, smells, culture and life of Syria from his childhood.

I then ventured to Jordan and Turkey to listen to other voices wondering if there was an alternative message to be heard. There was none – the message and experiences were consistent. So now I am applying what I do best, to document how Syrians are providing a health service for Syrians in need of that service.

Given the difficulties involved, the approaches that have emerged are not only germane but also determined and resourceful, both within Syria and from bases just across its border with surrounding countries. With seemingly endless ingenuity and a steely integrity in accord with internationally recognized medical ethics this brave civil society is determined to provide a free health service to all Syrians on the basis of need. This documentary project aims to describe how that happens.