• Switzerland's news in English

'You killed my son!': Mum confronts Syrian regime

Jonathan Fowler/AFP · 30 Jan 2014, 19:03

Published: 30 Jan 2014 19:03 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

As Syria's warring sides held a sixth day of UN-brokered peace talks, the mother of a British doctor who died in the custody of President Bashar al-Assad's regime confronted his aides on Thursday.
Syria says that Abbas Khan, 32, was found hanging in a prison cell on December 16th 2013, and that he committed suicide.
His relatives are adamant he was murdered by his captors.
Having travelled from Britain to Switzerland and obtained a visitor's pass to the UN's European offices — where the talks were under way behind closed doors — Fatima Khan waited for hours for delegates to emerge and speak to journalists in the garden.
She seized her chance when top Assad aide Buthaina Shaaban came out for the cameras.
Shaaban appeared caught off guard, asking who the distraught woman was.
"The doctor's mother," responded a man in the crowd.
Shaaban did not comment on Khan's charge, simply murmuring: "Let's get away from here."
Khan was ushered away by UN security guards, as reporters from across Syria's divide traded barbs.
A pro-regime journalist told her to get lost, sparking an irony-laced reaction from an anti-regime rival: "In Syria you lay down the law, but not here! So the doctor killed himself? Are you sure you didn't kill him?"
Khan, the father of two children, was detained in November 2012 in the war-ravaged city of Aleppo just 48 hours after entering Syria from Turkey without a visa to help treat victims of hospital bombings.
"For five months he was in a civil prison, and for eight months he was in a torture prison, where they are torturing and killing thousands of people," his mother told AFP.
She received a Syrian visa and visited him behind bars in July 2013.
"When I saw him in prison, he told me, 'Mummy, look, I'm a doctor, I'm a humanitarian aid worker, and look what they did to me," she said.

"So imagine what they're doing to their own people.'"
Despite saying the world should be rid of the Assad regime, Khan denied she had become an opposition tool.
"I'm not representing the opposition, I'm representing half a million mothers inside Syria," she told AFP.

'Caught with a medical kit, not a weapon'

Story continues below…

The Syrian conflict erupted in March 2011 after a crackdown on pro-democracy protests and morphed into a war that has killed more than 130,000 people and driven millions from their homes.
The regime spotlights the role of hardline Islamists from Syria and abroad that are fighting it, and slaps the "terrorist" label on the entire opposition.
The opposition Free Syrian Army, which is itself fighting the jihadists as well as Assad, says that is an excuse for regime brutality.
Khan had been due at a terrorism court the day after his body was found.

His mother rejected suggestions that he had an ulterior motive for entering Syria.
"He was not caught with a weapon, he was caught with a medical kit," she said, adding that he had a return flight booked from Turkey on November 24th, 2012.
"If they don't understand what a doctor's profession is, if they don't know what a humanitarian aid worker is, then they should not be in power."
Khan worked at London's Royal Orthopaedic Hospital.
His mother, an Indian immigrant, tearfully recalled the sacrifices that helped him achieve that.
"We were very poor, we were working hard, I used to cook and sell food to have some money for private tuition," she said.
Khan's body was escorted from Syria on December 22nd by the Red Cross to family members waiting in Lebanon.
Arriving back in Britain, the body underwent a CT scan and a post-mortem, before his burial on December 26th.
A British inquest to establish the cause of death is due on February 27th.

Jonathan Fowler/AFP (news@thelocal.ch )

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
'Protect Swiss waterways or lose our fish': WWF
Photo: Richi Stadelmann/WWF

Eighty-five percent of fish species in Switzerland are under threat, according to a report by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

SBB pilots new annual pass – costing 12,200 francs
The 'door-to-door' pass includes use of an electric car. Photo: SBB

Swiss federal railways (SBB) is looking for 100 people willing to pilot a new annual transport pass that includes use of an electric car.

Immigration to Switzerland falls as emigration rises
File photo: The Local

Immigration in Switzerland has fallen considerably this year, according to official figures.

Wawrinka aces his way into Basel quarterfinals
Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP

The home favourite returns to the quarterfinals of the Swiss Indoors for the first time in five years.

Illegal immigrant dies after setting himself on fire
The victim was treated at University Hospital Zurich. Photo: University Hospital Zurich

The 45-year-old Tunisian was threatened with deportation.

Swiss government rejects call for second immigration vote
Photo: Justus Blumer/Christophe G

The Swiss government has rejected a popular initiative calling for a revote on plans to limit immigration.

Bern: companies should report salary inequality by law
File photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP

The Swiss government wants to force small companies to examine their rates of pay every four years.

Husband in custody after Orbe body identified
File photo: Bas Leenders

The deceased is a 55-year-old woman who lived in the house with her husband.

Presented by MoneyPark
How to get a mortgage in Switzerland
Houses in Zürich. Photo: Pixabay.

Ready to buy? Here’s what you need to know as an expat about Swiss regulations, how to finance your purchase, and why you should use a broker.

Autumn in Switzerland: ten stunning Instagram photos
Photo: Swiss Tourism/Jan Geerk

Switzerland is beautiful in all seasons, but as these photos show, autumn is a special time in the alpine country.

Photo: Unterirdisch Ueberleben
Inside Switzerland’s largest nuclear bunker – 40 years on
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Photo: The Local
Ticino firefighters rescue cow from swimming pool
Photo: Antoni Da Campo
Vegan wins battle to be accepted by Swiss army
Photo: Swiss Tourism
Ten Swiss ski resorts named most expensive in Europe
Photo: Randy Kashka
Swiss women will ‘work for free’ for the rest of year
Photo: Swiss Tourism
Montreux throws hat in Olympic rings
Photo: Swiss Tourism
Seven things you’ll miss about Switzerland if you leave
Photo: Richard Juilliard/AFP
Man makes Geneva airport bomb threat ‘for a joke’
Photo: AFP
Solar Impulse team reveals plans for unmanned plane
File photo: Martin Abegglen
Swiss to vote on passport rules for 3rd gen foreigners
Photo: AFP
Swiss wingsuit hotspot Lauterbrunnen won’t impose ban
Photo: Swiss Tourism
Six reasons Switzerland isn’t as boring as you might think
Photo: Swiss Tourism
Report: Switzerland one of world’s best places for girls
Photo: The Local
Thief returns Swiss cow bells worth thousands
File photo: Wikimedia Commons
One in three rapists isn’t locked up: statistics
Photo: activistin.ch
Tampon-tax protest turns Zurich fountains red
Photo: AFP
Geneva police to lift ban on bearded officers
Photo: Marcel Gillieron/AFP
Suicide chef’s restaurant keeps Michelin stars
Photo: Lara de Salis
11 things the Swiss get tired of hearing abroad
Photo:  Ivo Scholz/Swiss-image.ch
Survey: expats in Switzerland have money but few friends
Photo: AFP
Swiss press criticize Bern’s 'capitulation' on immigration
Photo: Jura Trois Lacs tourism
German ex-policeman is Swiss city’s new hermit
Photo: Dmitry A. Mottl
Ticino votes to favour local workers over foreigners
jobs available