Malika Harbalie, otherwise known as Um Yazan, was born in Aleppo in 1987.
After completing high school, she attended the Nursing and Midwifery School in Aleppo, and graduated with a Diploma in Nursing in 2007. She began teaching in the same school until 2010, in the midst of Syria’s political and social crisis.

At the beginning of the Syrian revolution, while she was working as a nurse in Children’s Hospital in Aleppo, she was detained by the State Security intelligence and charged with terrorism, treating terrorists and challenging the Syrian state sovereignty.

Her detention lasted for 16 days during which she was brutally tortured and horrified.

When the peaceful mobilization in Aleppo shifted to a military one, she remained in Aleppo city. She moved from the regime-controlled area and started working in field field hospitals that were under the control of the Syrian opposition including Yassin Jabban, the Children Hospital in Hanano, Shawqi Hilal, and IDA’s Children’s Hospital (al-Hakeem) because field hospitals were in dire need of medics like her.

She bravely went to work in eastern Aleppo despite the continuous bombing and the shortage of medical supplies there.

In 2012, Malika lost her family, her relatives, and her colleagues to the civil war.

This did not discourage her from working and seeking the freedom that she and other Syrians aspire to.

Rather, it gave her great motivation to continue her humanitarian work serving her fellow Syrians.

During the war, she experienced multiple shrapnel injuries from indiscriminate aerial bombardment and artillery shelling on and around hospitals. She has several fractures and wounds which have left their scars.

Beyond the physical pain she sustained in Aleppo, as Head Nurse in the Children’s Hospital in Aleppo that was supported by Independent Doctors Association (IDA), she experienced tremendous psychological trauma as a result of seeing so many injured children lose their precious lives due to the bombing or our inability to make the required medical intervention. Aleppo was under siege and deprived of resources by regime forces and its allies.

The medical facilities in Aleppo city were under constant bombardment, including the Children’s Hospital which was attacked four times in the middle of the siege of Aleppo: in April, July and two times in November of 2016 when it went out of service.

After being attacked, Malika and her colleagues’ biggest challenge was finding a safer place to move the hospital and the patients who were mainly small children and babies who needed special care including incubators and ventilators.

On the same day of the final attack (November 18, 2016), they managed to move the hospital, but it remained unsafe since all the medical facilities were under systematic attack.

After only two days they lost their Children’s Hospital again but this time was forever.
Knowing this would be the last time she would be there, and broken hearted but still strong spirited, Malika left behind a red rose in the beloved incubator room where she had worked so long.

With the intensification of bombardment by the Syrian regime in December 2016, the civilians in eastern Aleppo who were about 36,000 gathered in the neighborhood of Saif al-Dawlah. Meanwhile, the shelling was ongoing and never stopped. There, she suffered from a great psychological pain, and yet found strength to bear up to the difficult conditions and knew that she should keep going.

Being evicted from her beloved city Aleppo was a great pain for other medics for every citizen in Aleppo.

They left for nowhere.

Their future was unknown.

They were first evicted to the western Aleppo countryside then to the northern countryside.

Throughout this hardship, IDA was in close contact with Malika and the team, and never left them alone.

In that period, Malika and her friends and colleagues set out to find a place to work again and use their knowledge and experience to continue to serve children and civilians who were in desperate need.

IDA and the world responded:

In April 2017, a new pediatric hospital was opened in the town of Ghandoura in the eastern Aleppo countryside, and it was suitably named “Hope Hospital.”

July 13, 2017 was another tragic day for Malika.

She was badly injured when a car bomb in Azaz, just a few kilometers from the Turkish border, went off near her.

She received multiple fractures and burns and was transferred to Turkey to get proper treatment which lasted for three months.

Once the treatment was finished, she went back to Syria to resume her work in the Hope Hospital that she loved.

Malika is a gift to the children and citizens of Syria, and an inspiration to every nurse in the world, and it is with great humility and love that we honor her as part of International Nurses Day at the United Nations on May 11, 2018.

– Deb