An abridged version of this article appeared in The Guardian on February 15, 2013
A trip to Syria last January piqued my interest in the ubiquitous Syrian death toll that accompanies most news items on the country. The overwhelming assumption about these casualty numbers is that they represent dead civilians killed by a brutal regime, but inside Syria I found widely conflicting opinions on who was doing the killing and who was dying.
In my February 2012 investigation I concluded that the UN total of 5,000 victims of violence in Syria included a more diverse universe than what was being portrayed in the media: civilians caught in the crossfire between government forces and opposition gunmen; victims of deliberate violence by government forces and by opposition gunmen; “dead opposition fighters” whose attire do not distinguish them from regular civilians; and members of the Syrian security forces, both on and off duty.
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