SOHR’s 16th Anniversary | The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reaffirms commitment to defending the rights of Syrian civilians and working hard to bring war criminals to justice • The Syrian Observatory For Human Rights

SOHR’s 16th Anniversary | The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reaffirms commitment to defending the rights of Syrian civilians and working hard to bring war criminals to justice

In the wake of a long period of considerable media blackout, and after the closure of many files of criminality and atrocities committed secretly by killing hundreds of innocent civilians, it was the time for Rami Abdulrahman, the founder and director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, to revive hopes by reopening these files and exploring unknown places with aim of disclosing the truth. A man who believes that human rights and dignity of all people must be respected and preserved, and that democracy, freedom, justice and equality are the main pillars of every decent life everywhere and at all times. Guided by these principles, the plight of Syrian people could be highlighted in front of the public and regional opinion and all international powers, despite all the challenges and obstacles attempting to stifle their voices.


On this day in 2006, 16 years ago, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) was founded with limited resources and capabilities. However, it could document and monitor the suffering of Syrian people, look into corruption cases and provided evidence proving the involvement of major Syrian figures in corruption, despite all the pressure and challenges and risks SOHR faced. Today, SOHR has become the only media institution to be able to penetrate the regime’s basements and reveal atrocities committed there, despite the top secrecy these places have been shrouded with and known for decades.


The Syrian Revolution was a turning point for the coverage of the successive events in Syria for SOHR as it started to play a larger and more effective role, making it the most reliable source of news on Syria.. Since 2011, SOHR has been intensifying its efforts to document all suffering of Syrian people, including killings and displacement, and cooperation with human rights organisations and all independent international bodies in order to provide factual information on an impartial basis.


Accordingly, the Syrian Observatory has become the most trustworthy human rights institution, where major Arab and International press and media agencies, such as the Guardian, The Times, Telegraph, Washington Post, BBC and Reuters, cite SOHR’s articles as the most reliable source of events for the transparency and fact-based reporting which SOHR is known for, as no articles or statistics are published unless they are documented and verified whether by SOHR activists on the ground or through cooperation with human rights organisations.


It is worth noting that Rami Abdulrahman has left Syria years before the Syrian Revolution, after having been arrested on three occasions for his free political opinions and stances, while his organisation comprises more than 200 Syrian activists on the ground. Covering the entire Syrian geography, these activists firmly believe in the importance of reaching and disclosing the truth, but, sadly, six activists have been killed in the line of duty over the past few years.


The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has faced scores of challenges until it has reached this level of reliability and success, the most prominent of which was the difficulty to establish contact with activists on the ground and the headquarters of the Observatory in the UK, as secure communication in all areas which experienced clashes and battles has become almost impossible. However, the efforts by SOHR to secure the required equipment for filming and documenting violations and war crimes proves SOHR’s serious intention to disclose facts and reality. This spurred SOHR activists to access every area throughout Syria, including frontlines, conflict zones and hotspots; this, in turn, jeopardised the lives of many activists, while some others lost their lives and others faced arrests and sustained injuries.


At a time when many international actors participated in an open war against the Syrian people, the Syrian Observatory announced its rejection of any international interference in Syria. This stance was clear and decisive, and this was evidenced when SOHR director fired an activist for calling for foreign intervention. SOHR has been all along seeking to help the Syrian people to regain their dignity and live under those principles which SOHR has adopted since the first day of its activity in Syria.


The Syrian Observatory has pursued documenting all war victims regardless of their affiliation or the zone of influence they live in, as every person killed or injured during this war is a human being whose rights must be preserved. Accordingly, SOHR strives to document all events, victims and perpetrators with full impartiality.


After 16 years of hard work and diligent efforts, during which scores of horrific crimes and atrocities have been documented, SOHR affirms that it is still continuing its work with the same ethos and reinvigorated energy.


The Syrian Observatory has tried every possible way to fight media disinformation, fake news and smear campaign until it has taken the lead among other organisations in the Arab world, and has become the most reliable source of information regarding Syria and the Syrian conflict in the region and the world.


SOHR has believed in and called for peace and enhancing the culture of championing human rights. In this context, SOHR’s director has attempted to bring together the political views of Syrians and participated in several conferences and meetings calling for a political settlement in Syria. The Observatory has also opposed the policy of exclusion and communicated with a large number of politicians and human rights Syrian activists, giving them a chance to express their views and opinions through exclusive interviews, all showed stances promoting humanitarian principles. These interviews have been widely praised by Syrian opposition bodies, especially by those who communicate with SOHR with the aim of delivering their views and messages to the international community, believing in the reliability, neutrality and integrity of the Syrian Observatory for Human rights.


Since the beginning of the Syrian Revolution in 2011, SOHR has been working on garnering support for, and raising awareness of Syria and its people , and it has vowed to disclose all atrocities and blatant human rights violations and monitoring all developments on the ground minuet by minuet and as they happened. We can also never ignore the war waged on the Syrian Observatory by several actors, which is a testament to our right way of doing our job.


Moreover, SOHR seeks to deliver all political and human rights issues to decision makers and international community with the aim of stopping bloodshed and ongoing violations against Syrian people, and being the voice of bereaved families and orphans. SOHR has highlighted the plight of women and children throughout the country which is in the midst of the most violent war in the 21st Century after Rwanda massacres, according to the United Nations.


SOHR has been all along warning against the repercussions of the Syrian crisis on all levels, including the security, economic, political, social, developmental and humanitarian levels, which will affect several Syrian generations, particularly the recent generation which has witnessed a devastating war, a war that has destroyed the country and divided itssociety.


One of the most prominent goals of the Syrian Observatory is manifested in documenting human rights violations committed in Syria under the rule of Al-Assad’s regime, as SOHR has documented by names the death of 500,096 people since the outbreak of the Syrian Revolution out of an overall death toll of at least 610,000 people whose death has been verified by SOHR in the past 11 years.


According to SOHR statistics, civilian deaths are 160,927: 120,331 men, 15,259 women and 25,337 children, and they are as follows:


  • 49,363 civilians died under torture in regime prisons.


  • 52,525 civilians were killed in shelling and gunfire by regime forces.


  • 26,403 civilians were killed in airstrikes by the regime air-force


  • 8,683 civilians were killed by Russian bombardments.


  • 2,504 civilians were killed in airstrikes, which SOHR was unable to verify whether they were executed by Russian or regime air-forces.


  • 2,322 civilians were killed by opposition factions.


  • 900 civilians were killed by jihadists.


  • 1,086 civilians were killed in unknown circumstances.


  • 453 civilians were killed in field executions.


  • 1,767 civilians were killed in various attacks, most notably by gunfire and with sharp objects


  • 1,028 civilians were killed in bombardment with prohibited weapons.


  • 925 civilians died of poor living conditions.


  • 4,204 civilians were killed in explosions.


  • 2,676 civilians were killed by the International Coalitions.


  • 17 civilians were killed in Israeli bombardments.


  • 873 civilians were killed by Turkish forces.


  • 4,577 civilians were killed by ISIS.


  • 420 civilians were killed by SDF and Kurdish forces.


  • 201 others.


Non-civilian deaths: 339,142 are distributed as follows:


  • Regime forces: 91,319


  • Regime, Iran and Russia-backed militiamen: 67,263


  • Lebanese Hezbollah: 1,712


  • Non-Syrian militiamen backed by Iran and Russia: 8,628


  • Rebel and Islamist factions: 80,050


  • Regime army defectors: 3,589


  • Syria Democratic Forces (SDF): 10,908


  • Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG): 3,228


  • ISIS members: 41,127


  • Jihadists: 27,974


  • Turkish soldiers: 241


  • Russia-backed non-Syrian mercenaries: 266


  • Unidentified combatants and others: 2,837


The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has been unable to document the number of deaths of the International Coalition, due to the extreme secrecy shrouding their missions and operations.


These statistics, documented by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, do not include the following:


  • Over 55,000 civilians were killed under torture in the detention centres and prisons of Bashar al-Assad’s regime (SOHR obtained information about their death during the period of their detention).


  • Over 3,200 fighters of Kurdistan Workers’ Party who were killed while fighting alongside Syria Democratic Forces.


  • Hundreds of the Lebanese Hezbollah members.


  • More than 3,200 civilians and fighters abducted by ISIS.


  • More than 4,100 prisoners and missing members of regime forces and their proxy militiamen.


  • Over 1,800 persons were kidnapped by rebel and Islamists factions, “Islamic State” organisation and Hayyaat Tahrir Al-Sham (former Jabhat Al-Nusra) on charge of “supporting the Syrian regime.”


The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights estimates that the real and actual number of people who were killed in Syria to be higher by nearly 54,000, well above the numbers that the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has been able to document, simply due to the extreme secrecy surrounding the number of casualties by the warring parties; furthermore, the Observatory has been unable to document many civilian deaths due to the difficulty of reaching some remote areas in Syria.


Additionally, the ongoing military operations, shelling, bombardment and various explosions have injured more than 2.1 million Syrian civilians with varying injuries, wounds and permanent disabilities.


About 13 million other civilians, including hundreds of thousands of children and women, have been displaced. Furthermore, infrastructure, hospitals, schools, and private and public property have been substantially damaged or destroyed.


We, at the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), reaffirm our commitment and vow to defend human rights of Syrian people and make sure that they will gain their law-enshrined rights defined by international charters and the terms of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We also confirm that we will never relent when it comes to handling and addressing human rights violations, despite all challenges and obstacles we face. We stress our deep belief in Syria’s just cause and all calls for securing decent standards of living, dignity and freedom.

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