On the heels of the Arab Spring revolutions, which began in December 2010, armed conflicts began in Syria in March 2011. What started as protests demanding that President Bashar al-Assad resign resulted in the deployment of the Syrian Army to stop the uprising. Since then, violent conflict has been raging in Syria. Amid this continuing violence and humanitarian crisis, local human rights activists and citizen journalists risk their lives to document human rights violations. The grave challenges they face are compounded by the regime’s active suppression of information flow out of the country. As a result, there is considerable uncertainty about the total number of violations and their patterns over time and location.
In 2012, at the request of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), HRDAG undertook a comparison of seven datasets documenting killings in Syria. Based on this analysis, we found 59,648 unique, identifiable records of killings between March 2011 and November 2012. The full preliminary report, published in January 2013, describes the datasets analyzed and methods of comparison. [report] [Benetech news release] [UN news release] [BBC] [Reuters] [NYTimes]
In the first half of 2013, the team continued to gather updated data from existing sources and explore potential new data sources. This updated analysis, published by the OHCHR on June 13, 2013, includes records from eight data sources documenting a total of 92,901 reported killings. [report] [blogpost] [UN news release] [AP] [BBC] [NPR]
In August, 2014, HRDAG released its third report commissioned by the UN OHCHR on the reported killings in the Syrian conflict. HRDAG identified 191,369 deaths from the start of the conflict in March 2011 to April 2014, more than double the 92,901 deaths cited in their last report, which covered the first two years of the conflict. [report] [blogpost] [FiveThirtyEight] [NYTimes] [PBS News Hour] [Washington Post] [Neue Zürcher Zeitung]
In August, 2016, HRDAG published a technical memo about the data analysis used to support Amnesty International’s “It breaks the human: Torture, disease and death in Syria’s prisons,” a report detailing the conditions and mortality in Syrian prisons from 2011 to 2015. The HRDAG team used data from four sources to find a total of 12,270 documented, identifiable people killed while in detention; they used multiple systems estimation (MSE) to estimate the number of undocumented killings in the prisons during the same time period—the estimated total (documented and undocumented) deaths is 17, 723. In effect, 25 percent of the killings in detention were unreported. [memo] [blogpost] [CNN] [DW]
- Megan Price (2017). Estimating the human toll in Syria. Nature. 8 February 2017. © 2017 Macmillan Publishers Limited, part of Springer Nature. All rights reserved. Nature Human Behaviour. ISSN 2397-3374.
- Patrick Ball (2016). Why Just Counting the Dead in Syria Won’t Bring Them Justice. Foreign Policy. October 19, 2016. © 2016 Foreign Policy.
- Megan Price, Anita Gohdes and Patrick Ball (2016). Technical Memo for Amnesty International Report on Deaths in Detention. Human Rights Data Analysis Group, commissioned by Amnesty International. August 17, 2016. © 2016 HRDAG. Creative Commons BY-NC-SA. [related blogpost]
- Megan Price, Anita Gohdes, and Patrick Ball. (2015). Documents of war: Understanding the Syrian Conflict. Significance 12, no. 2 (April): 14–19. doi: 10.1111/j.1740-9713.2015.00811.x. © 2015 The Royal Statistical Society. All rights reserved.
- Megan Price, Anita Gohdes, and Patrick Ball (2014). Updated Statistical Analysis of Documentation of Killings in the Syrian Arab Republic. Human Rights Data Analysis Group, commissioned by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). August 22, 2014. © 2014 HRDAG. Creative Commons BY-NC-SA.
- Megan Price, Jeff Klingner, Anas Qtiesh, and Patrick Ball (2013). Full Updated Statistical Analysis of Documentation of Killings in the Syrian Arab Republic. Human Rights Data Analysis Group, commissioned by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [UN link]. June 13, 2013. © 2013 HRDAG. Creative Commons BY-NC-SA.
- Megan Price, Jeff Klingner, and Patrick Ball (2013). Preliminary Statistical Analysis of Documentation of Killings in the Syrian Arab Republic. The Benetech Human Rights Program, commissioned by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). January 2, 2013. © 2013 HRDAG. Creative Commons BY-NC-SA.