Published on 25 Mar 2013

Dar al-Shifah clinic: the news report you cannot afford to miss

Nowhere describes Syria’s disintegration as a nation more acutely than her shattered second city of Aleppo. Nowhere describes the agony of Syria more acutely than that city’s Dar al-Shifah clinic.

Despite the almost complete lack of medical staff, drugs, equipment and even sanitation, the clinic tends the cascades of brutally injured civilians and fighters alike pouring through its door. So short of nursing staff are they that 12-year-old Mohammad and 11-year-old Jussuf are amongst scores of youngsters who have been harnessed to tend to the injured.

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They swab, they staunch, they pump, they wipe some of the very worst injuries that man’s inhumanity to man can inflict

The nearby river Quoeiq finds rebel forces one side and government forces ranged upstream. From time to time each day, the unseen upstream presence dispatches a body. The day that we filmed four came down in the space of five minutes. Their hands tied behind their backs, there was a child of no more than 10; an old man stripped naked, and two others.

On the streets in this city in which Christians and Muslims lived in harmonious unity, the Islamists now hold sway and they are radicalising by the day. They are winning hearts and minds too with their tender collecting of bodies; their food drops; their tending of the wounded, and their cleaning of the streets. They run informal schools too in the absence of any others – schools which have the Koran as their guiding light.

As time ticks by, Syria is splitting into a thousand smithereens. Though moderates still just prevail on the rebel side, the Islamist hardliners are in the fast ascendant.

This is what our latest report – filmed in Aleppo over the past few weeks – reveals. Don’t miss it. It is the most affecting piece of television news I have seen in a very long time.

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14 reader comments

  1. Mark - Milton Keynes says:

    It seems somewhat macabre to say it, but congratulations on the report just published on Aleppo. It has been a very long time indeed since I have seen a TV news report that had such capacity to both move and shock.

    It should be essential viewing for governments around the world.

  2. Heather Watson says:

    Is there anywhere this film can be seen again on the web? I am a secondary school teacher and would like to show it to my students.

    1. Channel 4 News says:

      Hi Heather

      Yes, you can see the film online. Here’s the link –


      Channel 4 News

  3. Chris James. says:

    Hi John, I saw you report on Dar al-Shifah clinic. My heart went out the those children who worked in the clinic.
    And I was shocked and saddened the see the people were murdered and thrown in to the river., I was ever more shocked to hear one was a child of ten years old.
    Why can’t We/Europe do something about it, why are the governments dragging there feet. Asaad has to go, or their country will die.
    I thought you report was shocking but to the point.
    Thank you John, for bringing the news as it should be shown.

  4. P. Eustace says:

    One sided reporting. Where was the media a few years ago. Do you really support the rebels who have only their own agenda and not that of the suffering people of Syria. Who started the conflict and why did your news department not query and examine the Assad regime some years ago. I also presume you read the Amnesty report last week showing and condemning the atrocities, torture by the rebels, and summary executions by the rebel rabble. Please report fairly!! I didn’t hear your news comdemning the Russians and The Chinese preventing a Security Council debate and solution. The Americans just bypassed them. Less bias and more total reporting please.

    1. ben aldersey says:

      I’m assuming you would prefer nothing on the conflict at all then? This was a shocking and eye opening report for many, which will focus people’s attention on the desperate situation on the ground now, even if it’s not the full story.

    2. Meg Howarth says:

      You’re way off the mark with your comment, I’m afraid.

      The report on Dar al-Shifah clinic and the child medics, Jussuf and Mohammad, wasn’t about taking sides but presenting a reality on the ground in Aleppo. It succeeded magnificently – an outstanding piece of TV photo-journalism (C4’s reporting on Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields also comes to mind) for which we should all be grateful. Marcel Mettelsiefen’s photography, Jon’s commentary and the technicians who put the film together are to be applauded.

      Footnote: it’s sad that your anger appears to have inhibited your ability to focus on the child medics at the heart of the film.

  5. Stuart Wilson says:

    This report left me shaking with anger and close to tears. The devestation of a city, it’s buildings and infrastructure smashed and its population terrorised and scattered. Even those slain in the conflict used as messages reinforcing the insanity. But the real horror was portrayed on the faces of two boys aged 11 and 12, Jussuf and Mohhamad. Two innocents propelled into a world of unimaginable suffering and cruelty. Two children working as medics, being exposed to sights and experiences most adults could not cope with. And then Jussuf, still and lifeless. There, three days after being filmed tending the wounds of an injured adult in the same clinic. Everyone must see this and say ‘no more’. No more.

  6. Will Speak says:

    Thank you for having the courage to show such a powerful report. A picture speaks a thousand words.

  7. Graham Davis says:

    I watched this on C4 news last night; it was one of the most harrowing reports that I have ever see. C4 were right to show it and the viewer was for warned as to the horror it contained. Syria is part of the cradle of civilisation and Allepo and Damascus are among the oldest continuously inhabited cities. That such a country should fall so far is heartbreaking. There is no prospect of peace unless Assad is offered up by those hoping to save their own skins.

  8. Graham Davis says:

    P. Eustace. Consider the recent history of Syria. The unelected regime of the Assad dynasty has ruthlessly controlled Syria for decades. The current civil war started as a peaceful protest by people who wanted a democratic future. It was met with brutal repression by a regime that was prepared to kill its citizens as it had done before in order to ensure its own survival. One-sided, I think not.

  9. margaret brandreth-jones says:

    So sad, So sad. There is a series of programmes coming up on Radio4 .Apparently what news is reported , why it is reported and what makes news will be discussed

  10. anon says:

    I remember the bombing of London in World war 2. The air raid sirens would sound and I would be swooped up bymy mother as a tiny toddler and rushed to the iron shelter we had constructed in our livingr room, often in the middle of the night. Some rushed to the street built shelters or the underground. Houses were bombed in almost every street, Iremember the planes flying overhead and the noise of explosions,

    Syria is an appalling situation and I have sent aid . But I have not read anything about a reaction that was anything akin to Britain in World War 2. Those teenagers are courageus incredibly so, but where are the nurses. Have they all fled to refugee camps?.nursing ,fireservices and volunteers brought us through the hell of World War well as the determination to survive.

    Is the islamic faith so divisive that killing each other is tolerated as an extremist strategy.?

  11. mombser2 says:

    Just as an aside- Not generally published-
    But on the Golan- Injured people are crossing the line into the Israeli sector and being treated and looked after by IDF medical staff-

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