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According to Wikipedia, the war started In March 2011, violence in the war peaked during 2012–2017, and the situation still remains a crisis, with 12 million Syrians remained forcibly displaced in the region.

The war has resulted in an estimated 470,000–610,000 violent deaths, making it the second deadliest conflict of the 21st century

Approximately how many of those victims are civilians, how many were killed by the opposition, and how many were killed by Assad's troops?

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    Anything can be estimated with a sufficient margin of error.
    – ohwilleke
    Nov 20, 2023 at 20:54
  • @ForShaniNicoleLouk How many of Assad's munitions senselessly murdering children were provided by US taxpayer dollars? How many Billions and Billions of dollars of U.S. taxpayer money went to Assad in order to build and maintain him into this impervious mass murdering regime?
    – JMS
    Nov 21, 2023 at 0:18
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    Close for discredit reason? WTF? Fair enough to ask how many ppl died, by whom. Nov 21, 2023 at 1:05
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    @JMS That's hands on one of the most ridiculous claims I've heard made here. Even ppl who really dislike the US will complain about the US destabilizing Syria to get rid of Assad instead. Nov 21, 2023 at 1:10
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    Voting not to close - It's a reasonable question and some data should be available on the deaths and displacement.
    – sfxedit
    Nov 21, 2023 at 8:57

2 Answers 2

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I personally take this with a large grain of salt, but according to one London-based NGO (SNHR), which appears to have one of the most detailed attempts at accounting

The report reveals that no fewer than 230,224 civilians, including 30,007 children and 16,319 women (adult female), were killed at the hands of the parties to the conflict and controlling forces in Syria between March 2011 and March 2023. The Syrian regime was responsible for 201,055 of these deaths, with the victims including 22,981 children and 11,976 women, while Russian forces killed 6,950 civilians, including 2,048 children and 977 women. Meanwhile, ISIS killed 5,054 civilians, including 958 children and 587 women, while Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) killed 517 civilians, including 74 children and 79 women, and the Turkistan Islamic Party killed four civilians. All armed opposition factions/Syrian National Army (SNA) were responsible for the deaths of 4,206 civilians, including 1,007 children and 885 women, while Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) killed 1,420 civilians, including 250 children and 169 women. Additionally, international coalition forces killed 3,051 civilians, including 926 children and 658 women, and finally 7,967 civilians, including 1,763 children and 988 women, were killed by other parties. The report also includes a running count of the civilian death toll and its distribution by year over the past 12 years. Analysis of the data shows that 91 percent of all victims were killed at the hands of Syrian regime forces and their allies, with roughly 56 percent of all victims being killed in the second and third year of the popular uprising (between March 2012 and March 2014).

I suspect Syria and Russia disagree with some of this, but I could not quickly find any counter-figures from them.

One reason I'm skeptical is that the same NGO e.g. said:

“The air force [is responsible for] approximately 70 percent of these deaths. Missiles, barrel bombs, lead to massive destruction and lead to massive casualties. And only two parties have an air force - the Syrian regime and the Russians. Also the US-led coalition, but they only operate in very specific areas.”

I mean Syria had their own air force, but did they kill 28.5 times as many civilians as Russia's air force, when the Syrian one was largely reported to be on their last legs and only saved by Russia intervening? Even with that 0.7 reduction factor applied only to the regime's deaths, that's still a 20x factor over Russia's air force. So, YMMV. Yeah, it's possible Russia had more precision ammo.

A RAND report in contrast claimed (previous link)

"negating Syrian air power would have only a marginal direct effect on civilian casualties, which have mostly been caused by ground forces".

Anyhow, another opposition-friendly group, the SOHR likewise claim that 87% of the civilian deaths were caused by the regime. From their figures, I'm skeptical of the combatant to civilian death ratio e.g. 8:3 claimed in 2014, given the largely urban nature of the combat.

BTW, the UK government claims it killed or injured around 4400 ISIS militants and most of these are claimed as fatalities although just about 1000 of them in Syria (and 3000 in Iraq) but only one civilian killed in Syria+Iraq between 2014 and 2021. That alas can't be easily cross-checked with much else, because even SNHR data doesn't break down "coalition" strikes by nationality.

More broadly, the Western coalition in this war seems to have admitted to only about 10% of the civilian deaths that NGOs (like Amnesty) accused it of. I'm guessing the Syrian regime and Russia generally didn't [bother to] admit to any (numbers in particular).

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  • Russian forces? They were actively involved? Nov 20, 2023 at 16:17
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    @ForShaniNicoleLouk very involved: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…
    – Brian Z
    Nov 20, 2023 at 18:22
  • It turns out there's data from Syrian gov't sources too. These were combined with opposition data in the UN report from ItalianPhilo's answer. Nov 20, 2023 at 22:24
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    Note also that that who Syrians consider as "rebels" (and thus a combatant) is very likely to be classified as a civilian by the west.
    – sfxedit
    Nov 21, 2023 at 10:07
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    Another reason to be skeptical: 184k adult male civilians killed versus 16k adult female civilians killed, taken with the claim of 70% killed by the air force. Bombs would kill civilians in approximately their proportion in the population. Maybe more women and children fled the conflict areas but can that really account for an 11:1 kill ratio of men to women? Nov 21, 2023 at 14:23
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TLDR: per UN, 137k out of 306k civilian deaths came from "Government & allies"

The UN did a detailed report about this.

The report, mandated by the UN Human Rights Council, referred to 143,350 civilian deaths that have been individually documented by various sources with detailed information, including at least their full name, date and location of death. In addition, statistical estimation techniques of imputation and multiple systems estimation were used to connect the dots where there were missing elements of information. Using these techniques, a further 163,537 civilian deaths were estimated to have occurred, bringing the total estimated civilian death toll to 306,887.

They give you a link to the actual report, which is in a long list.

A/HRC/50/68 Report on civil deaths in the Syrian Arab Republic – Report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights English (Advance unedited version)

The thing is a docx. Looking for government, I eventually got to :

Table A6: Documented deaths by actors/groups alleged of causing the death and year

getting 137,529 as the government's "contribution".

enter image description here

They even provide some apportionment:

According to available data, 39.3 per cent of deaths (137,529) were allegedly caused by actions by the Government and its allies, 35.7 per cent (125,098) by non-State armed groups, which include anti-government groups (5.3 per cent, 18,519), Islamic factions (24.9 per cent, 87,039) and Islamic State (5.1 per cent, 17,868). 0.8 per cent of deaths (2,859) were allegedly caused by the coalition forces, and for 24.2 per cent (84,595) of the documented conflict-related deaths, the actors were recorded as unknown. It should be noted that to provide a more complete picture of the attribution of casualties to the various actors, more work would be required [...]

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    So UN's estimate is around only 44% (138/307) civilian deaths caused by the regime. Quite interesting. They assign a much larger civvie death toll being due to "Islamic factions" (87K --28%) than the London-based NGOs do. Nov 20, 2023 at 21:19
  • There is however an equally (85K) large chunk of "unknown" in UN's data. And "Islamic factions" are counted apart from ISIS too (18K). Nov 20, 2023 at 21:25
  • I've edited in a para where they calculate some percentages themselves. I hope you don't mind. My own calcs in comments above are a bit off from that. Can't be bothered to re-check why... Nov 20, 2023 at 21:44
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    I wouldn't worry overmuch about the exact number. The whole thing seems a bit guesstimated, as could be expected. The UN probably has better access to government areas but you can still bet Assad will try to softball things. Wonder what Russian contributions were? General "Armageddon" Surovikin got his nickname somewhere. And so did "Butcher" Dvornikov Nov 20, 2023 at 21:47
  • Yeah, the UN punts on Russia vs Iranian militias etc. They do have a table (A5) with heavy weapons vs small arms. It's about 50/50 on that too (81K vs 76K), which may seem a bit implausible. OTOH if the advancing troops shot civilians in the "opposing neighborhood" on sight, that's less implausible. Nov 20, 2023 at 21:52

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