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Syrian Casualties: Who's counting?

First published 3rd Jun 2014

Image taken from crowd sourced map tracking casualties in Syria developed by Syria Tracker © Syria Tracker

Although the United Nations ceased publishing information on casualties earlier this year, several civil society organisations working within Syria, along the Syrian border, and around the world continue to collect, compile and disseminate detailed casualty information relating to the conflict. While the casualty figures produced by the UK based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights are most often cited in the media, Every Casualty would like to draw attention to the impressive recording efforts undertaken by a number of other organisations including the Syrian Center for Statistics and Research (CSR-SY), Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR), Syria Tracker (ST), Syria Shuhada (SS), and the Violations Documentation Center (VDC)

Working  both within and outside Syria, these organisations collect information either from their own network of volunteers and staff on the ground or from locally based activist and community groups who relay casualty information via social media as they occur. In most cases this will include the name, age and gender of adult and child victims, together with details of the time, place and circumstances of their death. This information is often supplemented by documentary evidence including photos, videos and other material associated with the victim or their funeral. 

These organisations are openly aligned with the anti-government movement, but uniformly view themselves as impartial casualty recorders and seek to document all victims of the conflict. The data they produce is detailed in nature, making it more easily verifiable. Additionally none of these organisations produce aggregated totals alone, instead openly publishing their raw data on conflict casualties, listing each victim and the circumstances of their death individually. 

Data from these organisations has been used by the United Nations and also formed the basis of Every Casualty's 2013 report on child casualties in Syria

Syrian Center for Statistics and Research (CSR-SY)

CSR-SY is an organisation based in Germany but with correspondents, academics and field researchers based in Syria. CSR-SY records casualties and produces statistics on casualties, detainees and missing people from the conflict. The organisation started recording casualties on 19 March 2011 under the name Syrian Rights Association, and in August 2011 established the CSR-SY as a specialised organisation for documentation. CSR-SY makes available most of the individual-level information about casualties that it has documented on its public website. Its aim is to fact-find and monitor the conflict in Syria and in the border regions, in order to support local policy-makers and decision-makers.

Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR)

SNHR is an organisation registered in the UK with volunteers based both inside and outside Syria. It documents a wide range of human rights violations, and began recording casualties on 18 March 2011. SNHR was reconstituted in April 2011 and has around 100 members operating in every governorate of Syria. It publishes daily aggregate reports of killings in Syria on its public website. Its individual-level records are shared with more than 50 organisations, whose names are listed on the website. SNHR aims to be an objective source of information on human rights violations in the conflict, and states that its documentation work follows international standards for such documentation.

Syria Tracker (ST)

Syria Tracker is a crowd-sourcing initiative developed by Syrian-Americans based in the United States, and is a project of Humanitarian Tracker. It has been crowd-sourcing information on casualties since April 2011. ST has partnerships with many organisations including Ushaidi, VDC and Syria Shuhada, with which ST has merged its data. ST relies primarily on existing networks and organisations in Syria that submit online reports to its website. It also carries out data-mining of social media and produces separate aggregate reports on deaths and other violations. ST makes all of its aggregated and disaggregated data available on its website

Syria Tracker's crisis mapping system: