There has been a mixed reaction to a government decision to allow doctors to carry guns for their own protection.
[Read this report in Arabic]
“This decision implies the security situation is still unstable and that doctors are still in danger,” said Mohammed Khalil Ali, a 33-year old gynaecologist and obstetrician who moved to the more peaceful semi-autonomous northern Kurdistan region earlier this year.
“Carrying weapons is not the solution as the possessor must be well-trained. It could… prompt a vicious attack from the assailant,” Ali told IRIN from Arbil, one of three provinces that make up the Kurdish region.
On 29 September, the Iraqi government decided to allow every doctor to carry a gun for personal protection, and approved the construction of secure residential compounds inside and around hospitals to ensure security for doctors and their families.
Dozens of doctors have been killed and thousands of others have fled the country since the US-led invasion in 2003.
Ali warned that doctors with weapons could lead to “security chaos”, saying it was the job of the security forces to ensure law and order.
However, Essam Jaafar Hassan, a 36-year-old dermatologist at Baghdad’s Medical City, gave a cautious welcome to the move.
“Though belated, I welcome [the move] but I can’t imagine carrying a pistol,” said Hassan, adding: “At least we will have something with which to defend ourselves legally.”
In August the Iraqi Health Ministry set up a committee to look into ways and means of persuading doctors to return to the country, including assistance with travel costs and increased salaries. Some 800 doctors have returned, according to Ministry figures released in September.
The flight of thousands of doctors either to northern Iraq or neighbouring countries has left the medical care system almost paralysed, said observers.
Earlier this year the Ministry said 618 medical employees, including 132 doctors, had been killed since 2003.
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions