In Turkey, a Syrian doctor aids his countrymen

Palestinian youths flash V-signs while they hold Syrian flags during a pro-Syrian demonstration.

David Brancaccio: Since the Syrian uprising began in March last year, tens of thousands of people have fled the country. Some went to Jordan; others to Lebanon and, according to officials there, at least 27,000 to Turkey.  

From Istanbul, Ashley Cleek reports on one man's efforts to help those fighting against the regime of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad.


Ashley Cleek: A small private hospital in the suburbs of Istanbul. Two Syrian men lie here, injured but, they think, lucky. Because when the revolution started Dr. Alin Nazir, a Syrian doctor who's lived in Istanbul for 30 years, decided he'd treat wounded Syrians for free.

Alin Nazir: Any Syrian who didn't help his countrymen in this position is a traitor. Most of the revolutionaries are poor and you shouldn't take money from them.

But Dr. Nazir and his nephew Khaled, who works with him, learned a few months ago that some patients had bills. They were shocked.

Khaled Nazir: One man called my uncle and he asked him to decrease the cost for the guys here. He said to my uncle, a bill come to me that you want $25,000. My uncle said to him, I do not want any money from anyone. They stay for free, they eat for free.

Apparently, a middleman had been ripping off some patients. Khaled says his uncle has tried to make sure everyone knows not to pay any bills. He hopes his family's reputation is not tarnished by this.

Khaled Nazir: Other people are trying to steal money, using our names. So our names will be bad between our friends. Some people will think bad, like Khaled and doctor are trying to write big bills, and that's not true.

The Syrian opposition in Istanbul is small and close knit, with about 800 volunteers. The exiles run a number of groups that send aid to Syria.

In the basement of an office building in Istanbul, Moqirah Al Sharif volunteers with the Syrian Solidarity Association. He rustles through boxes of T-shirts, bracelets and lighters.

Moqirah Al Sharif: We have a lighter. This is for 10 liras; you can make 100 liras out of 10.

Over the past five months, the group has sent $100,000 to Syria. Al Sharif says they know there is a lot of graft, especially at the border among smugglers. So, they only send money with people they know. And so far, they haven't been ripped off.

In Istanbul, I'm Ashley Cleek for Marketplace.

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