Conflict & Justice

There are many questions surrounding the death of a British surgeon in Syria


Dr. Abbas Khan went missing 48 hours after he entered Syria.


Free Dr. Abbas Khan Facebook page.

Dr. Abbas Khan was a 32-year-old British surgeon who lived in south London. After the seeing the plight of the Syrian people and the big number of casualties in Syria, he decided to go there to help.

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This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.

Only 48 hours after he arrived in Syria, he was arrested at a check point. That was a beginning of a 13-month struggle to get out of Syria.

He was taken into Syrian custody and from prison to prison.

The BBC's Lyse Doucet says Khan wrote frequently to his family and those letters tell a tragic tale.

"They tell about his repeated abuse and beatings at the hands of his captors, he talks about being denied food and medical aid, he talks about having been forced to beat other detainees himself," she says.

But recently Doucet says, there seems to have been a decision taken by Syrian President Bashar Assad to release Khan, in what was described as a goodwill gesture.

"We were prepared to cover a very happy story," Doucet says, adding that she has seen documents showing what flight Khan would take and what car would pick him up from the airport.

But then something went tragically wrong.

Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad described to Doucet that Khan had been served breakfast and then two hours later a prison guard had knocked on the door to let him out for exercise.

After he received no answer, he opened the door and found that he had taken his pajamas off and hung himself with it.

The Syrian government says he committed suicide, but his family don't buy it. They say in letters he recently wrote to them, he had a hopeful tone and mentioned he will be back home for Christmas.

Khan's mother has also been in Damascus, visiting his son every Saturday. She had refused to go home unless his son was released. And she says she can not believe his son would kill himself.

He had seemed in better shape, eating better, and having even gained a few pounds.

For now Doucet says the family just want to see the body of Khan returned to Britain.

He had two children and they were decorating the tree, planning to celebrate Christmas as a family.

According to Doucet, the family still haven't had the courage to tell the children "that their father won't be coming home this week, and in fact would never be coming home."