The family of a British doctor who has been held in Syria for a year have been informed of his death.
The “Free Dr Abbas Khan” Twitter account (which is run by his family) tweeted this morning: “I sorrowfully inform you of the news that Dr Abbas Khan was killed yesterday. An innocent’s life was taken meaninglessly. He was the best brother I could have ever asked for and I know no one with a purer heart than him. His release was due to be this week. I thank you all for your love and support. We still need your help. Abbas is not home. Help us bring him home for the burial he deserves.”
Dr Khan, a 32-year-old orthopaedic surgeon from Streatham, south London, travelled to the city of Aleppo last year. He started work in a field hospital but was arrested by government forces and his family lost all contact with him for months, unsure whether he was still alive.
Dr Khan’s mother, Fatima, travelled from London to track down her son earlier this year and found him in a prison in Damascus, weighing just five stone and barely able to walk. He claimed he had been tortured while in custody – where he was being held without charge – and held for much of the time on his own.
Dr Khan’s sister, Sara, told the BBC a few days ago: “It’s been very difficult for the family. For six months we did not know if he was alive. It’s tough to answer questions from his wife and his two children, like, ‘where is Baba’ and ‘why hasn’t he come home?'”
She added: “We are extremely worried about his mental state. He’s been in Syria for over 12 months – for eight months of that he was in solitary confinement. To be away from your family for so long, to not have any real contact with the outside world, it must be very difficult for him. We have no idea how he is managing to cope, both physically and mentally.”
Hanaa Umm Abdullah, the wife of Dr Abbas Khan, said: “The heart bleeds the eyes shed tears but the tongue shall not utter except that which pleases Allah. To Allah we belong, to Allah belongs everything we are and everything we have, and to Allah shall we all return.
“Allah gives, Allah takes, and He alone can compensate. I have the bitter taste of death in my throat, a taste I was choking with every day of the last 13 months, and this strange type of pain in every cell of my body, I never experienced. There’s so much I wanted to tell him and I’ve written too much for him but we can’t have this now in dunya because Allah has ordained for us to have it in a far greater place, free from stress, noise and badness.
“My sweetheart has been chosen by Allah for a great status, Allah the most kind has shown me and reassured me by His great fadl and Ihsaan that my love is happy. Oh Allah open wide the doors of Your Jinaan for my beloved one, oh Allah pour patience on us so we remain grateful to You, oh Allah we lay at the door of Your mercy ya Raheem we resort to you, grant my love Jannah and grant us sabr. Ya Allah you granted me him in dunya with Your fadl, ya Allah don’t deprive me of his company in jannah along with our beloved prophet ya Kareem.. Inna lillaah wa inna elayhi raji’oon.”
Dr Khan’s death is likely to prove scandalous for the Syrian and British governments after he was found dead in a Damascus prison only four days before he was to be handed over to British MP George Galloway to be taken home to Britain on the instructions of Bashar al Assad himself.
According to Syrian security authorities Dr Khan committed suicide in the state interrogation centre at Kfar Soussa in Damascus. Khan’s mother, who was herself in Damascus and had seen her son four times in the past four months, was eagerly awaiting his release this weekend when she received a telephone call from a Syrian official to say that he had hanged himself with his pyjamas.
According to the Independent’s Robert Fisk, George Galloway was flabbergasted. “When I telephoned him, he described Khan’s death as “inexplicable”. He had just booked his air ticket to Damascus when he heard the news from Dr Khan’s family – and then from the Syrian deputy foreign minister himself.”
Galloway said: “As yet, no satisfactory explanation has been given to me. The idea of a man committing suicide four days before he was to be released is impossible to believe. The Syrian government knows my stand on the war and on (American) intervention. A Syrian minister called me on behalf of the president (Assad) to come to Damascus before Christmas and take Abbas Khan home. We need an explanation.”
Meanwhile, it has also been reported that Foreign Secretary William Hague refused to meet Dr Khan’s family despite several requests to discuss his case. The Foreign Office said it was extremely concerned at the news and was seeking more information.