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Press Release: Major new report shows 11,420 children killed in Syrian conflict

First published 24th Nov 2013


London, 24 November 2013

Releasing new figures based on an analysis of 11,420 recorded child deaths in Syria, the Oxford Research Group published a new report highlighting the major ways in which boys and girls across all age groups are being killed in the conflict.

The report, Stolen Futures: The hidden toll of casualties in Syria, reveals that explosive weapons have been the cause of more than 7 out of every 10 child deaths in Syria since the conflict began in March 2011, while small arms fire accounts for more than one quarter of the total. This includes children caught in cross fire as well as others targeted by snipers, summarily executed and in some cases, tortured. 

“The data we analysed indicates that bombs and bullets alone ended the lives of ten thousand Syrian children in 30 months of war,” said co-author Hamit Dardagan. “The world needs to take a much closer interest in the effects of the conflict on Syria’s children.”

Stolen Futures draws on the same Syrian civil society-sourced databases that informed previous casualty statistics published by the UN and others, but examines in unprecedented detail the information they contain on victims and how they were killed. This reveals that:
  • 11,420 children (aged 17 and under) were recorded killed in the conflict by end of August 2013, from an overall total of 113,735 civilians and combatants killed.
  • Seven out of every 10 child deaths was caused by explosive weapons, making their use the biggest killer of children in Syria. (7,557, or 71%, of the 10,586 children whose cause of death was recorded.)
  • Small arms fire accounted for one in 4 child deaths, including children summarily executed and targeted by snipers. (2,806, or 26.5%, of the 10,586 children whose cause of death was recorded, including 764 summarily executed and 389 killed by sniper fire.)
  • Of the 764 children recorded as summarily executed, 112 were reported to have been tortured, including some of infant age.
  • Children in older age groups were targeted more often than younger children, and overall boys outnumbered girls killed by about 2 to 1. (1,748 vs 3,672.)
  • Older boys in the 13- to 17-year old group were consistently the most frequent victims of targeting killings such as those involving sniper fire, execution or torture.
  • The highest child casualty figures were in the governorate of Aleppo, but relative to its size the worst-affected governorate was Daraa, where roughly 1 in 400 children was recorded killed. (Aleppo, 2,223, or 1 in 985, children killed; Daraa, 1,134, or 1 in 408, children killed.)
  • 128 children were recorded killed by chemical weapons in Ghouta on August 21, 2013.
The report’s co-author Hana Salama commented:

“What is most disturbing about the findings of this report is not only the sheer numbers of children killed in this conflict, but the way they are being killed. Bombed in their homes, in their communities, during day-to-day activities such as waiting in bread lines or attending school; shot by bullets in crossfire, targeted by snipers, summarily executed, even gassed and tortured. All conflict parties need to take responsibility for the protection of children, and ultimately find a peaceful solution for the war itself.”

As Syrians and the international community take tentative steps towards a political resolution to the conflict, co-author Hamit Dardagan added:

“This study shows why explosive weapons should never be used where children live and play, how older children quickly become targets in a war and even the youngest suffer its worst abuses. This grim and terrible record also shows why a sustainable peace, not more bombs and bullets, is the only way to guarantee the safety of children.”



Describing the study’s methods, the authors note that only named victims were used in their analysis, and that the percentages and figures in their findings are limited to cases where the relevant information (such as cause of death) was available. The full report includes a survey of the Syrian organisations whose casualty lists and databases were used in the study and have become the world’s de facto source of record on the conflict’s casualties; timelines showing the mounting child death toll across the worst-affected regions of Syria; and more detailed breakdowns of the demographics of child victims by age and gender, and the weapons involved in their death.

About the authors

Hamit Dardagan is the Co-Director of the Every Casualty programme at Oxford Research Group (ORG). In 2002 he co-founded the Iraq Body Count  project (www.iraqbodycount.org) and is a director of its parent company, Conflict Casualties Monitor, which produced the analysis in this report. He has written and co-written a number of analytical papers on casualties in Iraq after the 2003 invasion, including for The New England Journal of Medicine, PLoS Medicine, and The Lancet, as well as opinion pieces outlining the case for the detailed recording of all casualties in publications as diverse as The Guardian and The British Army Review, the latter in co-authorship with a now-retired Brigadier General in the British Army.

Hana Salama is the Networks Officer at the Every Casualty Programme at Oxford Research Group (ORG). She works with members of the ORG-hosted International Practitioner Network of Casualty Recorders  and other experts to develop standards in the field of casualty recording. Hana interviewed representatives of the Syrian casualty recording organisations whose data was used for this report. She also works on promoting and establishing casualty recording as an international norm through coordinating international advocacy on the issue through the Every Casualty Campaign. Before joining ORG Hana worked at Amnesty International. She holds a Master's in Human Rights from LSE and a Bsc in International Development studies from the University of Ottawa, Canada.

About Oxford Research Group

ORG is a leading independent UK think tank based in London and has worked for 30 years to promote sustainable approaches to security and non-military solutions to conflict. www.oxfordresearchgroup.org.uk

The Every Casualty programme at Oxford Research Group (ORG) is committed to the principle that no individual should be killed in armed violence without his or her death being recorded, and is working to build the political will for this internationally. The programme also works on enhancing the technical and institutional capacity for casualty recording, and part of this work involves hosting an International Practitioner Network of more than 45 casualty recording organisations. www.everycasualty.org and www.oxfordresearchgroup.org.uk/rcac


Russell Hargrave 
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