News / Middle East

Syrian Violence Becoming 'Overly Sectarian', Report Finds

In this Saturday, December 15, 2012 photo, Free Syrian Army fighters aim their weapons as they chant religious slogans during heavy clashes with government forces at a military academy besieged by the rebels north of Aleppo, Syria.
In this Saturday, December 15, 2012 photo, Free Syrian Army fighters aim their weapons as they chant religious slogans during heavy clashes with government forces at a military academy besieged by the rebels north of Aleppo, Syria.
VOA News
The United Nations is highlighting the civilian toll in the nearly two-year conflict in Syria, saying thousands have died in a crisis that has become increasingly sectarian in nature.

U.N. human rights investigators say in a new report Thursday that the fighting "has brought immeasurable destruction and human suffering" to Syrian civilians, and that the humanitarian situation has rapidly deteriorated since late September.

The report says human rights abuses continue unabated.

It notes dramatic increases in violence in major cities, particularly Damascus and Aleppo, as well as a rise in attacks on cultural sites.

Syria's Population: 22.5 million people
(CIA World Factbook July 2012 estimate)


Syria's Ethnic Groups

Arab: 90 percent
Kurds: 9-10 percent
Armenians: 1 percent
Turkomans: 0.2 percent
Circassians: Less than 0.1 percent

Syria's Religious Groups

Sunni Islam: 74 percent
Christians: 10-11percent
Alawite Islam: 9-10 percent
Druze: 3 percent
Ismaili Islam: 1percent
Ithna'ashari/Twelver Shi'ite Islam: Less than 1percent
The investigators say fighting between government forces and rebels seeking to oust President Bashar al-Assad has become "overtly sectarian."  The major divide is between Syria's Sunni majority, which broadly backs the rebels, and the minority Alawite community supporting Assad's government.

The report says the sectarian divide has provided motivation for foreigners to join the fighting.  It says Sunnis from the Middle East and North Africa are siding with the rebels, while Shi'ites, including Lebanese Hezbollah militants, are helping the government.

Paulo Pinheiro, who chairs the U.N. Commission of Inquiry on Syria, said the fighting has also drawn in other Syrian minority groups.

"Some minority communities, including Christians, Kurds and Turkmen, have also been caught up in the conflict, and this is new, this is a new development of the last month, and in some cases forced to take up arms for their own defense or taking sides in the conflict," said Pinheiro.

Syria, deaths from conflict, updated December 20, 2012Syria, deaths from conflict, updated December 20, 2012
x
Syria, deaths from conflict, updated December 20, 2012
Syria, deaths from conflict, updated December 20, 2012
The report notes that opposition fighters control large areas in northern and central Syria, but remain poorly organized in the country's south where government forces remain in control.

It says the Syrian military has shifted its tactics, using fewer ground assaults and more shelling in rebel-controlled areas.  The government is also besieging those strongholds and strengthening border areas with Jordan and Lebanon to try to slow the flow of weapons and people.

The investigators say opposition fighters have increasingly been able to obtain weapons, from small arms up to anti-aircraft missiles,  with many taken from military camps, but others being smuggled into Syria from abroad.

Pinheiro says the investigators reiterate that a negotiated political settlement is the only way to bring an end to the conflict.

"This is war where no military victory is possible. I think that is a great illusion, that providing arms for one side or the others, the end of the crisis will be very near to us," he said.

Also Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Moscow is not focused on the fate of Mr. Assad's government, but rather with finding a solution that prevents the breakup of Syria.


  • A Free Syrian Army fighter carries the body of his colleague Abdullah during his funeral in Aleppo, Syria, December 21.2012.
  • A boy holds pita bread as others stand in line outside a bakery in Aleppo, Syria, December 21, 2012.
  • A damaged tank is seen at the Free Syrian Army controlled infantry college near Aleppo, Syria, December 21, 2012.
  • Syrian refugees,who fled their home in Idlib due to a government airstrike, load their belongings into a vehicle after crossing into Cilvegozu, Turkey, December 20, 2012.
  • A Syrian refugee crosses illegally to Turkey on the border fence, Cilvegozu, Turkey, December 20, 2012.
  • A Free Syrian Army fighter, whose comrades are surrounding a military airport, reads the Quran, Aleppo, Syria, December 20, 2012.
  • People near a damaged building after it was attacked by a Syrian Army jet in Azaz, Syria, December 16, 2012.
  • Damaged buildings are seen in Al-Khalidiya neighborhood of Homs, Syria, December 16, 2012.
  • A Free Syrian Army fighter carries his weapon as he walks along a damaged street in Aleppo's Khan al-Wazeer district, Syria, December 16, 2012.
  • Free Syrian Army fighters pose with a tank after capturing the Military Infantry School following heavy clashes, Aleppo, Syria, December 16, 2012.

You May Like

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: nubwaxer from: usa
December 21, 2012 11:37 PM
always keep in mind the unimaginable slaughter that was the us civil war.

by: Necessary Sudden Attacks from: The USA
December 21, 2012 7:24 AM
It’s the Powerful Ambition of Assad, makes the very painful death of more than 40.000 Syrians recently, as well as a Wonderful Field for an Overly Sectarian War. Foolishly and stubbornly, Assad has been trying to protect his Power by ANY WAY, that he can. This can lead to terrible dangers not only to all civil Syrians, but also the Middle East and worldwidely. Because, sectarian forces in Syria as well as Assad’s troops can use Chemical Weapons to attack each other madly.
This is a QUITE POSSIBLE CONSEQUENCE.
All painful and dangerous consequences in Syria come from Assad himself. Truly, Assad is more dangerous than Chemical Weapons.
So, we should be active to attack Assad’s military forces suddenly at any time, if necessary. This is one of the Best Keys to end Every Misery of all innocent Syrians. If Assad doesn’t stop all his serious crimes right now, and returning Power to all Syrians, surely, he must face the most Terribe Punishment of History, in the near future. This is the Last Chance for him, and certainly, he will never get any other one.The two names - Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi still aren’t “enough” for Assad?

by: JKF from: Ottawa, Canada
December 20, 2012 2:27 PM
The entry, in full force of Hezbollah into the conflict against the Syrian people is a tremendous escalation. Their past record, in the various lebanese wars, is of brutality with no end and human rights violations against entire communities; essentially they carried out incredible attrocities against lebanese Sunni muslims and against christians; ethnically cleansing and depopulating entire towns and villages, destroying mosques, churches, levelling schools and so on.

Now is the time for all those supporting the anti-Assad coalition to provide full support to the new recognized representatives of Syria. It is very unfortunate, for the Syrian peole, that this Hezbollah terrorist force is engaged against them. It is shamefull, that the EU has not decleared this org as a terrorist org. Essentially the EU is allowing for funding to continue to flow to these terrorists, so they can continue to carry out henious crimes against the Syrian people.
In Response

by: Anonymous
December 27, 2012 6:56 PM
So the terrorists on BOTH SIDES are being funded by the WEST is what YOU are saying? Or is it JUST ONE SIDE you will call a TERRORIST?

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More