The Syrian Observatory For Human Rights

SOHR exclusive | Over 7,000 children and women among nearly 19,000 Syrian civilians killed by foreign powers since March 2011

12th Anniversary of the Syrian Revolution: Disastrous outcomes of intervention of foreign powers in Syria’s war

The Syrian Revolution has experienced several twists for the past 12 years due to the intervention by international powers under many pretexts; this, in turn, has badly impacted the situation in Syria and led to turning the peaceful protests by Syrian people, who only dreamed to enjoy justice, freedom, democracy and equality, into the most violent war in the 21st century.


Al-Assad’s regime, which keeps clinging only to power, is the only party to be blamed for the intervention of foreign powers, where the use of extreme violence by regime security forces against protests since the first day of the Syrian Revolution in March 2011 was the main gate for this intervention. With the formation of rebel, jihadist and terrorism groups and organisations in Syrian territory, such as former Jabhat Al-Nusra and ISIS, foreign powers, including the International Coalition and Russian forces, started to engage in the conflict under the pretext of fighting these rebel and jihadist organisations.


Moreover, the intervention of Iranians, Al-Assad’s allies, has spured Israel to infringe upon Syria’s sovereignty, turning it into a battlefield to settle its accounts with Iran, while Turkish forces invaded and occupied Syrian territory, citing the presence of “PKK” and ISIS as an excuse.


The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) has monitored and tracked all key developments on the ground for 12 years, since the onset of the Syrian Revolution. In this report, SOHR highlights the outcomes of the intervention of foreign powers in the conflict, its impact on Syrian civilians, who have nothing to do with this rivalry, and the changes on the map of alliances and power balances.



Human losses


Since the beginning of the Syrian Revolution, precisely the first incident of killing Syrians in gunfire by Turkish border guards (Jandaram) before the intervention of foreign powers and their military operations inside Syria, SOHR has documented by names the death of 18,579 civilians: 4,144 children under the age of eighteen, 2,901 females over the age of eighteen and 11,534 young and adult men.


The civilian fatalities are distributed as follows:


  • 8,697 civilians: 2,112 children, 1,321 women and 5,264 young and adult men, were killed by Russian forces since the beginning of Russian military operations in Syria on September 30, 2015.


  • 5,091 civilians: 914 children, 797 women and 3,380 young and adult men were killed by Iranian-backed militias since the involvement of Iranians in the Syrian crisis alongside Al-Assad’s regime, where Iranian-backed militias participated then in oppressing Syrian protestors, using extreme power, as well as the military operations by those militias. SOHR would like to point out that a large number of Syrians died under torture in regime prison during the period when the Iranians, namely Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, were supervising those presions.


  • 3,855 civilians: 972 children, 711 women and 2,172 young and adult men were killed by the International Coalition since it started military operations in Syria on September 23, 2014.


  • 916 civilians: 144 children, 69 women and 703 young and adult men were killed by Turkish forces since the first incident of killing Syrians in gunfire by Turkish Jandaram. According to SOHR statistics, 531 civilians of the total death toll, including 93 children and 46 women, were killed by Turkish Jandarma, while 146 civilians, including seven women and four children were killed in “Peace Spring” operation in Al-Hasakah and Al-Raqqah. The remaining civilian fatalities by Turkish forces were documented during “Olive Branch” operation and the omgoing attacks by Turkish fighter gets, drones and ground forces on areas under the control of the Autonomous Administration in North and East Syria.


  • 20 civilians: Two children, three women and 15 young and adult men were killed in attacks by Israel in Syria since 2018. It is worth noting that Israel has escalated their attacks in Syrian territory since 2018, citing the large military presence of Iranian forces and their proxy militias as an excuse. Those civilians were killed due to shrapnel of Israeli missiles intercepted by regime air defences.


SOHR confirms that tens of thousands of Syrian civilians sustained various injuries, some have disabilities, in military battles and attacks by those foreign powers.



Intervention of foreign powers change the map of alliances and power balances


There is no doubt that Russia played a remarkable role, since its involvement in the Syrian crisis in 2015, to revive Al-Assad’s regime, which was a few steps away from elimination. At that time, the Syrian regime dominated an area of some 48,101 square kilometers, equivalent to 26 percent of the total area of Syria. Even with the considerable support of Russian forces to Al-Assad’s regime, the area controlled by the Syrian regime shrank further until it reached 20 percent of the total area of Syria in 2017, before violent military operations by Russian forces turned the situation around. Today, regime forces controls an area of some 117,820 square kilometers, equivalent to 63.7 percent of the total area of Syria.


On the other hand, the International Coalition proceeded with military and field operations, as well as its logistical movements manifested in establishing military bases, expanding its space of influence and providing support to its allies. The participation of the International Coalition in military operation was concentrated in the geographical area dominated by its allies and formations it supports. International Coalition Forces are deployed in areas dominated by its allies, Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), and its proxy faction, the “Syrian Free Army” (former Maghawir Al-Thawra), with a total geographical area of some 51,584 square kilometers, equivalent to 27.8 percent of the total area of Syria. These areas, which are located in Aleppo, Deir Ezzor, Al-Hasakah, Al-Raqqah and the Syrian desert, are distributed as follows:


  • An area of 51,584 square kilometers (25.9%) dominated by SDF.


  • An area of 3,543 square kilometers (1.9%) dominated by the “Syrian Free Army.”


Before the intervention of the International Coalition in September 2014, SDF and former “Maghawir Al-Thawra” dominated an area of some 12,624 square kilometers, equivalent to 6.8 percent of the total area of Syria, specifically in the border area between Turkey and Iraq, Al-Hasakah city, the outskirts of Al-Raqqah countryside and Ain Al-Arab city (Kobani) which experienced the most violent ISIS attack.


Moreover, Turkish forces and their proxy factions operating under the banner of the “National Army” managed to take the control of an area of some 9,050 square kilometers, equivalent to 4.9 percent of the total area of Syria through following separate military operations:


  • “Euphrates Shield” military operation against ISIS in 2016.


  • “Olive Branch” military operation in 2018.


  • “Peace Spring” military operation in October 2019.


The spaces controlled by conflicting powers in Syria could be distributed, according to SOHR statistics, as follows:


  • Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF): 42,485.6 square kilometres (22.90%)


  • Islamic State Organization (ISIS): 1,851.8 square kilometres (1%)


  • Regime forces and loyalists, including Iranian-backed militias: 117,820 square kilometres (63.70%)


  • Areas controlled by “Olive Branch”, “Euphrates Shield” and “Peace Spring” operations rooms: 9,050 square kilometres (4.90%)


  • Islamic and rebel factions: 4,874 square kilometres (2.60%)


  • Factions backed by other foreign powers, namely the USA: 3,543 square kilometres (1.90%)


  • Joint controlled areas between regime forces and SDF: 5,555.4 square kilometres (3%).


It is worth noting that Syria’s total area is estimated to be 185,180 square kilometres:


  • Populated area: 104,475 square kilometres.


  • The desert: 80,705 square kilometres.


The involvement of foreign powers in the Syrian conflict has also led to the displacement of millions of Syrians. The Russians and Turks had guaranteed agreements and quickly abandoned their commitments, where these agreements stipulated the displacement of indigenous people in the eastern part of Aleppo city, Damascus, eastern and western Ghouta in Rif Dimashq, Kafriya, Al-Fu’ah, Homs city and countryside, Afrin, Al-Hasakah countryside and other areas across Syria.


Furthermore, Iranian-backed militias have wreaked havoc throughout Syria, forcing civilians to flee from their areas.


Similarly, many civilians have become homeless because of International Coalition strikes.


In addition, the violent battles by the warring foreign powers in Syria caused substantial material damage to infrastructure and public and private properties; let alone the looting and depleting Syria’s resources.


With the death of nearly 19,000 Syrian civilians in attacks, strikes and military operations by foreign powers, we, at the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), express out strong condemnation and denounce the killing of such large number of innocent Syrians. We also hold the international community responsible for this large number of civilian fatalities, especially with the ongoing deafening silence and ignoring of frequent appeals by SOHR to keep civilians away from military operations and its warnings against attacking them under any pretexts.


We renew our commitment to continue defending human rights in accordance with the international conventions which the UN and its agents are seeking to implement them on the ground.


We also vow to defend the unity of Syria and its sovereignty, and we reaffirm our rejection of the interference of all foreign powers which complicated the Syrian crisis further.