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
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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.

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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?

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