A young doctor who ran an underground hospital in the besieged region of eastern Ghouta during the Syrian civil war has been awarded a European prize for extraordinary humanitarian acts.
Amani Ballour, a paediatrician was named this year’s recipient of the Council of Europe’s Raoul Wallenberg prize, awarded in honour of a Swedish diplomat who saved tens of thousands of Jews from Nazi persecution in Hungary during World War II.
Ballour was described in the council announcement on Wednesday as a young doctor who finished university in 2012 one year after the start of the Syrian conflict and began as a volunteer helping the wounded in a makeshift clinic.
The clinic was located in the eastern Ghouta region on the outskirts of Damascus, which was under the control of rebels and besieged and bombarded by government forces.
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Within a few years Ballour was heading a hospital known as the Cave with some 100 staff, operating in underground shelters, Council of Europe Secretary-General Marija Pejcinovic Buric said.
“The Cave became a beacon of hope and safety for many besieged civilians,’’ Buric said.
“There, Dr Ballour risked her own safety and security to help those in the greatest need.’’
Ballour is the subject of a National Geographic documentary, also called `The Cave.’
According to National Geographic, Ballour left the hospital and eastern Ghouta in March 2018 as government forces launched a final assault on the enclave.
Ballour will be presented with the award on Friday. The day also marks the 75th anniversary of Wallenberg’s arrest in Budapest by Soviet forces after the city was liberated.
He was never again seen alive in public.