Decade of Syria war has killed nearly 500,000 people: war monitor

Published June 1, 2021
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the conflict has claimed 494,438 lives since it erupted in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests. — AFP/ File
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the conflict has claimed 494,438 lives since it erupted in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests. — AFP/ File

A decade of war in Syria has left nearly half a million people dead, a war monitor said on Tuesday, in a new toll that includes 100,000 recently confirmed deaths.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the conflict has claimed 494,438 lives since it erupted in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.

The previous tally, issued by the Observatory in March this year, stood at more than 388,000 dead.

The war monitor has since confirmed an additional 105,015 deaths following months of documentation efforts supported by its network of sources on the ground.

“The overwhelming majority of these deaths occurred between the end of 2012 and November 2015,” Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP, referring to the latest additions.

Of the recently confirmed fatalities, more than 42,000 are civilians, most of them killed under torture in Syrian regime prisons, according to the monitor.

Abdel Rahman said that a lull in the fighting allowed his organisation to investigate reports of deaths that had not been included in the overall tally for lack of documentation.

“It provided us with a window to document tens of thousands of cases for which we lacked evidence,” he said.

With government forces having reconquered large swathes of Syria and a ceasefire still holding along the main front line in Idlib region in the northwest, violence levels are at their lowest since the start of the conflict.

Prison deaths

The new figures published by the Observatory bring the total civilian death toll to 159,774, with attacks by Syrian government forces and allied militia accounting for the majority of deaths.

The Observatory also documented a total of at least 57,567 deaths in government prisons and detention centres since 2011, up from the 16,000 confirmed deaths it reported in March.

It also reported 168,326 deaths among Syrian soldiers and allied militia, with troops accounting for more than half of the tally.

The conflict has killed 68,393 jihadists, most members of the Islamic State group or of organisations linked to Al-Qaeda, as well as 79,844 other rebels.

A deal brokered by Turkey and Russia in March 2020 froze a government offensive on the rebel-controlled Idlib enclave which many feared would have caused human suffering on a scale yet unseen in the conflict.

The attention on both sides has since turned to battling the Covid-19 pandemic and 2020 saw the lowest number of conflict-related deaths since the start of the war at 10,000, according to the Observatory.

Today, the Damascus government controls more than two-thirds of the country after a string of Russia-backed victories since 2015.

President Bashar al-Assad, in power since 2000, was re-elected in May for a fourth seven-year term. The war has forced more than half the country's pre-war population to flee their homes.

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