All the usual caveats should apply here, and i’m not saying the numbers presented by the SOHR are gospel. But here’s the breakdown they’ve supplied nonetheless:
‘Total deaths from violence: 100’191
Total number of civilian deaths from violence: 36’661
Total number of pro-government fighter deaths from violence: 42’887
Total number of rebel fighter deaths from violence: 18’072.
So if (and that is an if) the trends represented here are broadly accurate, then the biggest proportion of those killed in Syria since 2011 are actually pro-government fighters, rather than armed rebels or civilians.
Now, don’t get me wrong here. Pro-government fighters have almost certainly committed some abominable crimes, up to and including Crimes against Humanity – the documentation for this is too widespread and consistent for the allegations simply to be dismissed as purely Western government or opposition propaganda. It’s also true to say that many of the opposition fighting factions have committed some pretty terrible atrocities themselves. And the killing of one civilian (by any side) is one too many, if you ask me. The killing of circa 36’000 is quite staggeringly horrific.
But what these figures point towards is that the war to date hasn’t in fact been the one sided massacre of unarmed civilians by pro-government forces that so much Western coverage has suggested. And that over four times as many pro-government forces have been killed in the last 30 months by armed rebels than ‘coalition forces’ were killed in Iraq and Afghanistan combined between 2001-2013. Not bad going for an apparently poorly armed and under resourced rebel army, eh?
And i’ve a sneaking suspicion – based on the coverage of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – that if it was U.S./U.K.forces doing what pro-government forces have been doing in Syria, the war would largely be presented as a routine insurgency/counter insurgency operation, with perhaps some civilians unfortunately being killed in the cross-fire, and maybe a Few Bad Apples committing war crimes which shouldn’t distract us from the overall nobility of the mission.
But of course it isn’t the U.S./U.K. et al, but rather a long time Official Bad Guy who the U.S./U.K. et al are trying to overthrow, and so state-corporate media will generally follow the state-corporate line of demonising pro-government forces – although as previously mentioned, they do a lot to demonise themselves – to the nth degree, all the better to facilitate another bloody ‘humanitarian intervention’.