Every time I discuss the Syrian tragedy with an anti-revolution or pro-Assad person, I would be faced with these questions: how do you know the numbers of killed people are right? Can you verify them? Why not count the killed soldiers too? Obviously, these people try to muddle the core problem and cover (unintentionally sometimes) for the Syrian regime atrocities. This is exactly what blogger Sharmine Narwani did in a long article in Al-Akhbar English. From a previous conversation with her on twitter, Sharmine might not be a pro-Assad person, but she is doing her best to doubt the genuine outcome and intentions of the peaceful uprising (yes peaceful, that’s how it started, ok).
In her mentioned piece, she asks:
Perception is 100 percent of politics […] How then does one count 20, 40, or 200 casualties in a few hours while conflict continues to rage around them?
My answer could be: “in the same way a YouTube video is uploaded”, but I am not going to get into the mechanics and logistics of how gathering information works. You can go always to Al-Akhbar’s piece and discuss it over there, but I want to ask some questions which (obviously) Sharmine missed in her long post: why can’t the humanitarian organizations get in and do their job properly, and who is stopping them from doing that? Why unprofessional individuals are forced to be ‘activists’? Do we care to apply the Geneva Conventions? And Did we doubt our numbers when Israel bombed us? Do we have any long-term interest in discrediting the United Nations’ work in Palestine? Really?
Main stream media usually takes their numbers from three main sources documenting the Syrian daily casualties , who seem to be doing reasonably good job with their circumstances – with as much details included as possible (and video link if available). These sources are the Violations Documenting Center in Syria (VDC), Syrian Shuhada and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR). Some activists told me they believe the former is the most accurate, as they base their numbers on Local Coordination Committees (LCC) who are the main drivers and facilitators of the protests.
All people who doubt the activists numbers don’t bother to ask my above-questions, let alone do any effort towards ‘rectifying’ the problem. They seem too concerned that the numbers are exaggerated, to be bothered with (let’s say) half or a quarter [of what’s been advertised] are really killed. The moral case is not there, because apparently there is an implicit allowed limit for killings per day.
Of course, there is a margin of error when inexperienced citizens take the role of the professionals in this field, but I assume their job would be more accurate if they were allowed to roam freely, speak to parents, attend funerals, take photographs, mark their graves, connect to the internet without censorship, check autopsy and official hospital death documents – that’s if the killed people are allowed to die in hospitals in the first place.
But again, Homs has been under continuous siege and bombardment since February 3rd 2012. I hear now the news that Homs could be falling, as the Syrian army ground troops enter the city. No one humanitarian organizations was allowed in by the Syrian regime. Even foreign journalists stuck there were being smuggled out to safety, with reportedly 23 activists sacrificing their lives for that. The ones killed in Homs didn’t have the chance to be buried outside, but they had the honour to be buried in Syrian soil.
There is an old saying by a former United Nations official that goes by: “if you kill one person, you go to jail. If you kill twenty people, you are considered insane. If you kill tens of thousands, you are offered asylum.” You don’t know, these exaggerating activists might be helping Bashar Al-Assad after all.
PS: VDC’s number as of today is 8942 people killed, with 7128 of them were civilians.