This Syrian doctor saved thousands in an underground hospital








During Syria’s deadly civil war, Amani Ballour treated victims of airstrikes and chemical attacks—memories that still haunt her today.


THE CRACK OF thunder; a plane streaming overhead; a knock on the door. Amani Ballour is afraid of loud noises. The sounds remind her of the fighter jets and ferocious shelling that forced her to reluctantly flee her native Syria in 2018.

The 32-year-old pediatrician does not find relief in the quiet of her sparsely furnished two-room apartment in Gaziantep, Turkey. In the stillness, she remembers the young patients she calls “my children,” those who survived and the many more who didn’t.


For two years, from 2016 to 2018, Ballour ran an underground field hospital known as the Cave in her hometown of Eastern Ghouta, near the Syrian capital Damascus. There, she witnessed war crimes including the use of chemical weapons and chlorine bombs, and airstrikes on hospitals, attacks that targeted a place of refuge and those already wounded.


Photo by Rena Effendi, National Geographic 


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