Over 470,000 estimated killed in Syrian conflict

25th Aug 2017
Over 470,000 estimated killed in Syrian conflict

A woman grieves outside a northern Syria hospital where her son’s body was brought after he was killed by a sniper (Photo Freedom House/Flickr Commons)

Farhaan Roble

It is estimated that between 400,000 and 475,000 people have died in the six-year Syrian conflict so far. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), 96,000 civilians have been killed in total and 120,000 Syrian Army soldiers have died. Furthermore, SOHR reports around 115,000 opposition fighters have died during the course of the war.

A large number of Syrians have also been displaced. According to the website “Syrian refugee’s A snapshot of the crisis – in the Middle East and Europe”, 11 million people have had to flee their homes since the start of the conflict in 2011. 4.8 million have fled to Turkey and regional states like Egypt, Lebanon, a further 1 million are seeking asylum in Europe.

The Syrian uprising started as a by product of the “Arab Spring”. It was further sparked by reports that Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad’s Mukhabarat had arrested and tortured teenagers for painting anti-regime slogans in the city of Deraa in March 2011. However, the initial protests were not isolated and rapidly spread throughout the country with demonstrations taking place in all the major cities. The Government’s response to the uprising, some of which were violent, was to send armed police to put them down.

According to Reuters, 2013 was the bloodiest for the Government when it lost 52,290 fighters and its ally Hizbullah lost 262 fighters. In the early years of the conflict, the Free Syrian Army were successful in gaining territory from Government forces. This was because the “moderate” rebels were backed by well-trained Syrian military defectors and by the US and other western governments including the UK.

In 2012, one high ranking General, Mostafa Ahmad al-Sheikh, stated: “If we get 25,000 to 30,000 deserters mounting guerrilla warfare in small groups of six or seven it is enough to exhaust the army in a year to a year-and-a-half.” Despite this, the rebels still took heavy casualties in many battles. Between July 19, 2012, and December 31, 2012 in Aleppo nearly 1000 rebels were killed and in contrast, the Government lost 478 fighters.

In the Syrian civil war, it was the civilians who suffered the most according to a report by SOHR. They claim that more than 7,000 civilians were killed by rebel shelling, 3,700 civilians killed by Daesh and 83,500 killed by Government troops.

Al-Assad and his allies have also been responsible for some human rights violations. Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs at the State Department, Stuart Jones, said, “The regime’s many atrocities are well-documented, we believe the building of a crematorium is an effort to cover up the extent of mass atrocities taking place in Saydnaya prison.”

Government forces have relied heavily on what the United Nations described as “Medieval military tactics ranging from the cutting of food supplies to cities and the continued use of chemical weapons and barrel bombs. The State’s use of chemical weapons again shocked the world this April as almost 80 people were killed in Khan Sheikhoun in a sarin attack. Russia which is Al-Assad’s biggest ally denied that biological weapons were used simply insisting, ‘Terrorists had been transporting chemical munitions from this largest arsenal to the territory of Iraq.’”

The US, which is also heavily involved in the conflict, has also been responsible for the deaths of civilians. May 2017 was described as the “deadliest on record” as US airstrikes killed 225 civilians, 44 of those were children, said SOHR. “The past month of operations is the highest civilian toll since the coalition began bombing Syria.”

The most violent faction in the conflict is the terror group Daesh which has been accused of some of the vilest human rights offences from torture, burnings to mass executions. One of the most infamous incidents took place this year as the terrorists executed 33 prisoners in Deir Ezzor using “sharp tools”, the young victims were then left in a grave ‘filled with blood’.

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