UN: 350,000 Killed in Syria War; Concedes Figure Is Undercount

Report represents 'minimum verifiable number'

Ten years of war in Syria has culminated with a UN Human Rights Office report including a tally of 350,209 people killed there. They conceded that this was an “undercount” and represented only the minimum verifiable number.

What that means in this case is a literal list of 350,209 people, with full names, date of death, and location of death. In other words, if any of that data was missing, they aren’t part of this count.

How many people is that? No one knows for certain, but it’s a lot. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights estimates 500,000 killed, with another 200,000 still being examined. This is a long, ugly war with a lot of combatants, a lot of populated areas, and it’s likely the true death toll will never be certain.

It’s important, as the world comes to terms with the Syrian War, how many different little wars were going on at the same time. The knee jerk in the world’s narrative is to blame the Syrian government in general, while the military has itself sustained major casualties in this war.

Indeed, there were many fights within the Syrian War in which Syria wasn’t heavily involved. The rise of the ISIS caliphate and US invasion. Kurdish factions fighting Islamist rebels and Turkey’s forces. Airwars documented some 20,000 airstrikes by the US and its allies.

All of that adds up to many thousands of undocumented deaths. With nations like the US eager to avoid accountability for civilians, there was little effort to properly account how many people were killed, or who did it. That was the sense during the war, and there seems no more appetite to account for them now. This is common in wars, and why the spread between known deaths and presumed deaths is often so wide.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is senior editor of Antiwar.com.