"Most of my patients who need plastic surgery, require between 10 and 15 operations. Because the skin contracts after it burns, many have limited mobility. We're trying to restore that for them," he says.

For example, in concrete terms, facial burns often mean that those affected can no longer close their eyes or mouth. "Bassam, on whom I've just operated, was no longer able to stretch his hands and arms properly, because the skin was too tight. So we cut it open and transplant donor skin, usually from the thighs," he continues.

Like many of his colleagues, Dr. Mukhallid previously worked in other clinics specialising in plastic reconstructive surgery – among them hospitals in Diyala, Sulaimaniyah and Baghdad – before coming to Jordan in 2013. "I like working here because the hospital pays me for my work. It's more rewarding for me if I don't have to take any money from my patients, which is the case in Iraq. For me, it's a personal matter, because here I'm paid by the hospital, and it doesn't cost my patients anything," says Dr. Mukhallid.

Equal treatment for all

The stories of the patients in attendance at the Al-Mowasah hospital are as individual as their injuries: Mohammad from Baghdad has been here for three months – this is his third visit. In 2006, unknown attackers fired on his family's home in Baghdad, killing his father and two of his uncles. He suffered serious injuries to his stomach and left leg.

Mohammed sustained serious injuries to his leg when unknown assailants attacked the family home in Baghdad in 2006 (photo: Philipp Breu)
"I’d prefer to stay here": Mohammed suffered serious injuries to his stomach and left leg when unknown assailants attacked the family home in Baghdad in 2006

The multiple leg fracture was so complex that comprehensive physiotherapy became necessary; this is how he came to be in Amman. "I'd prefer to stay here. We're still living in the same house, the bullet holes are still visible and we were even threatened again in 2016. I couldn't finish school because of the incident, I've got no money, no work and no prospects when I return home. God only knows what will happen," says Mohammad.

One of the therapists at the hospital is Zaid, a young Jordanian from Madaba. Zaid is committed to his international patients and the credo of his employer: "I treat everyone in the same way here, regardless of religion or nationality. I'm very close to many of my patients, I spend more time with them than at home with my own family," says Zaid.

On this particular Sunday, he's working with Hamid, a 65-year-old retired member of the army from Taiz in Yemen. Hamid has been in Jordan since late July – one of his sons was allowed to accompany him because he is wheelchair-bound. With the start of the civil war in 2015 and the Saudi Arabian intervention, he was injured in an explosion in his home city and had to undergo six operations in Yemen alone.

Faith in the doctors

He's been walking around the clinic on crutches, gradually putting more and more weight on his leg, which has multiple fractures, until he is able at some point to walk unaided again. "I have great faith in the doctors and myself, one must always remain optimistic. But I really miss my family. I'm already looking forward to seeing them again and being able to help with the reconstruction effort. I'd most like to be able to bring water and electricity back to our town," says Hamid.

As detailed as the patients' medical files may be, there is some information that will never be found there. For example, the doctors and nurses never enquire about the political conditions in which the violence was perpetrated against the victims.

For Medecins sans Frontieres, it is irrelevant who fired the bullets or dropped the bombs. The organisation's spokesperson Maria al-Fadel explains: "Of course this means we can't rule out the possibility that we're treating war criminals, but that's not important here, because we're committed to safeguarding the welfare of everyone and that means there's no place for political and religious labels. We just want to help."

Philipp Breu

© Qantara.de 2019

Translated from the German by Nina Coon

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