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Ethics in times of conflict: some reflections on Syria, in the backdrop of Iraq

Abstract

Ethical challenges facing research and reporting from conflict-affected zones are well known; among them is the difficulty of finding reliable information; the tendency to take sides and define actors as either good or evil; the precarious security situation of residents and the ever-changing scenarios on the ground. We observed, however, that these challenges go unacknowledged in research and reporting on health state and on the health system from the conflict in Iraq and Syria, with the lines between science and journalistic reporting routinely blurred in the literature. What should be the restraining factor of academic research against prejudiced reporting on injury, death and the healthcare system has mostly failed in the Syrian conflict. Even social media, with its promise of ‘independent’ and ‘citizens' voice’, can be skewed, with much of the output in the Syria crisis coming from one side only, largely due to access issues. While researchers in conflict-affected zones, such as Syria, may need to take a position on one side or another when reporting, death, destruction and disease, it is important that they admit to the challenges of accessing unbiased data, the near impossibility of obtaining representative samples and the risk of the contamination of evidence, clinical or otherwise. The example of the Syrian and Iraqi conflicts (as context) indicates a need to reassess research ethics in conflict zones and their implications for policy.

  • Health policies and all other topics

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