Skip to main content

Conjoined twins die after Syria 'fails to give travel documents'

Aid worker tells MEE that this case reflects how the international community has failed the children of Syria
Teams from Syrian Arab Red Crescent look after Moaz and Nawras who were born on 23 July (SARC)

Two conjoined baby boys who were evacuated from a rebel-held Damascus suburb for emergency treatment earlier this month died on Wednesday morning after the Syrian government failed to provide documents in time, aid workers said. 

Moaz and Nawras were born on 23 July in a hospital supported by the international charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF), in a rebel-held suburb of Eastern Ghouta that has been under a government siege since 2013.

The babies were unable to receive life-saving surgery as local hospitals in Eastern Ghouta did not have the necessary equipment to perform the surgery. The boys were eventually moved to Damascus by the Syrian Arab Red Crescent around 13 August, but aid workers say that precious time was lost and the government failed to issue further travel documents that would have allowed the babies to go abroad to receive emergency surgery. 

Many Western and Arab governments offered to help evacuate the twins and their family, but Syrian opposition activists claim that the Syrian Minister of Foreign Affairs did not sign off on their documents. 

"The Syrian government took long to reply because the babies were born in opposition held areas," Mohamad Katoub, an aid worker from the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) who started the social media campaign to help evacuate the twins, told Middle East Eye. 

"Everyone around the world offered their help to evacuate the babies, but people outside of Syria don't understand that you need permission to travel outside of Syria for treatment.

"[The] French Ministry of Foreign Affairs offered to give French Travel documents instead of Syrian documents, as did the Saudis and Americans when they contacted us."

Image by aid worker and humanitarian Mohamad Katoub (@aboali_majed)

The boys were among 20 patients who needed emergency evacuation from East Ghouta in an edict published by the World Health Organisation earlier this month. 

"We had every single detail of the plan of how to have the boys be evacuated down but the only thing that was missing was permission from the Syrian minister of Foreign Affairs," Katoub said. 

"This case is one example that reflects how the international community and humanitarian world have failed the children of Syria." 

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye edition