Accessibility links

Mexican Volunteer Doctor Makes Solitary Trek to Iraq to Help War Victims

On the road to a POW camp in Iraq near the Kuwait border, VOA's William Chien meets a volunteer doctor from Mexico named Antonio Gonzales.

As our convoy pulls over for a rest, I spot a young man eating by the roadside. Something about him is different. From the way he is dressed, I cannot tell what he does for a living or where he is from. A pair of glasses sits on his nose and a wooden box is at his side. Finally, I introduce myself. He reveals that he is a medical doctor from Mexico. His name is Antonio Gonzales and he graduated from medical school just before the war began in Iraq. After hearing of the squalid conditions in which the Iraqis live and of the way Iraqi civilians were suffering from the war, Dr. Gonzales, 23, bought a ticket and left Mexico to come to Iraq to help.

In broken English, he says that he supports the U.S.-led coalition's removal of Saddam. "The most important thing is to help you--with our experience and our abilities, and I think we can do a good work, working together, I hope," he said.

Even though his parents do not agree with his decision to risk coming to Iraq, no one could stop him. He says that he is a very stubborn individual. He waited for two weeks in Kuwait before finally entering Iraq with a group of reporters. Over the last five days, he was twice sent back to Kuwait by coalition military police. Gonzales says that so far he has visited seven Iraqi villages and treated 36 Iraqis, half of whom are children. The Iraqis are, of course, quite glad to see him, and wherever he goes offer him a place to eat and stay.

His training is highly prized in a region of the world that can overlook his lack of experience. "Training, well, I have training in anesthesiology and intensive care," he said.

Dr. Gonzales tells me that although he is Catholic, he is not in Iraq for religious reasons. If that were the case, he explains, he would go to a Catholic country. He says the real reason is that from a very early age, he has been unable to stand the sight of others suffering. He hopes eventually to return to Mexico and find work.

"I hope to achieve experience here and learn how you work and when we learn how you work, try to apply. The most important thing is to work. And, of course, we are doctors and we would like to treat the patient and improve their conditions," he said. Dr. Gonzales did not have a plan when he came to Iraq. He still doesn't. He is fairly certain that wherever he goes food and shelter will not be a problem. As long as he has enough to eat, he can travel about the country, and see some ancient sites of interest along the way. And his young age the lack of creature comforts doesn't detract from this lifestyle.

"My family? I am not married, fortunately, I'm not married, which is the reason why I can come here with-out too many problems," he said.

The young doctor says that although he is unable to speak Arabic, he made a number of very good friends. He says that the majority of people in all parts of the world are good people.

Dr. Gonzales turns to take to the road, his sturdy silhouette casts a long shadow. As he begins to disappear into a cloud of swirling dust, he asks me not to photograph him saying he wants no credit for what he's doing.