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UN: At Least 350,000 Civilians Killed in Syria’s Civil War

FILE - A woman walks at a cemetery in Douma, in the eastern suburbs of Damascus, Syria, March 9, 2021.
FILE - A woman walks at a cemetery in Douma, in the eastern suburbs of Damascus, Syria, March 9, 2021.

A United Nations analysis of documented killings in Syria’s decade-long war finds that roughly 350,000 civilians have been killed between March 2011, when the conflict erupted, and March 2021. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights commissioned the analysis and has submitted the results to the U.N. Human Rights Council.

The High Commissioner’s Office suspended counting of civilian war deaths in 2014. It was stopped because gathering verifiable information had become more complex and dangerous. In its last update, the office reported more than 191,000 individuals had been killed.

U.N. rights chief Michele Bachelet says the current number of more than 350,000 conflict-related deaths is based on her agency’s data, information gathered by civil society organizations and from the Syrian government.

“Our numbers include only those people identifiable by full name, with an established date of death, and who died in an identified governorate. But it is not—and should not be seen as—a complete number of conflict-related killings in Syria during this period. It indicates a minimum verifiable number and is certainly an under-count of the actual number of killings,” Bachelet said.

The greatest number of documented killings was recorded in Aleppo, followed by rural Damascus, Homs, Idlib, Hama, and Tartus. The report finds more than one in 13 victims was a woman, and nearly one in 13 was a child.

Bachelet said it is important to recognize that each number represents a person, not just an anonymous statistic in a brutal war. Tragically, she said many other victims have left behind no witnesses or documentation as to their deaths and the lives they led.

“Behind each recorded death was a human being, born free and equal, in dignity and rights. We must always make victims’ stories visible, both individually and collectively, because the injustice and horror of each of those deaths should compel us to action,” she said.

Bachelet said her office has begun to apply established statistical estimation techniques to account for the numbers of missing people. That, she noted, will provide a more complete picture of the scale of the conflict and its impact on Syrians.

The Syrian conflict has sparked the world’s biggest refugee crisis, with an estimated 6.8 million refugees and asylum seekers, most in neighboring countries. Another 6.7 million people are displaced inside Syria. The combined total of more than 13.5 million forcibly displaced people amounts to more than half of Syria’s population.