The Middle East Channel

U.N. reports Syrian death toll has reached 93,000

The United Nations human rights office released a report Thursday stating the death toll in the Syrian conflict has reached 93,000. According to the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, this number is likely understated, as numerous conflict-related killings are likely to have been undocumented. The previous U.N. figure released in mid-May was ...

AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images

The United Nations human rights office released a report Thursday stating the death toll in the Syrian conflict has reached 93,000. According to the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, this number is likely understated, as numerous conflict-related killings are likely to have been undocumented. The previous U.N. figure released in mid-May was 80,000. According to the report, an average of over 5,000 people a month have been killed in Syria since July 2012. The greatest number of casualties have been reported in the areas surrounding Damascus as well as in Homs and Aleppo. A global U.N. report on children and armed conflict noted that thousands of children have been killed since the start of the Syrian uprising in March 2011. The study reported that government and opposition forces were using children as "suicide bombers or human shields." The report additionally claimed that Syrian troops have tortured children with suspected ties to rebel groups. Meanwhile, as Syrian government forces have begun an offensive in Aleppo, head Syrian opposition commander General Salim Idris has appealed to the United States, France, and Britain for antitank missiles, antiaircraft weapons, and ammunition, to prevent the fall of Aleppo to the regime.

Headlines

Turkey's ruling AK Party has offered a referendum on Istanbul's Gezi Park as a concession to protesters; meanwhile, Prime Minister Erdogan said the protests "will be over in 24 hours." Google reported it has "detected and disrupted" thousands of seemingly "politically motivated" phishing attacks on Iranian email accounts ahead of the June 14 presidential election. The Jordanian Parliament has approved a treaty with Britain that would allow for the deportation of radical cleric Abu Qatada. The editor of Iran's state newspaper Kayhan called for fundamentalists to unite behind one candidate for Friday's presidential election. 

The United Nations human rights office released a report Thursday stating the death toll in the Syrian conflict has reached 93,000. According to the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, this number is likely understated, as numerous conflict-related killings are likely to have been undocumented. The previous U.N. figure released in mid-May was 80,000. According to the report, an average of over 5,000 people a month have been killed in Syria since July 2012. The greatest number of casualties have been reported in the areas surrounding Damascus as well as in Homs and Aleppo. A global U.N. report on children and armed conflict noted that thousands of children have been killed since the start of the Syrian uprising in March 2011. The study reported that government and opposition forces were using children as "suicide bombers or human shields." The report additionally claimed that Syrian troops have tortured children with suspected ties to rebel groups. Meanwhile, as Syrian government forces have begun an offensive in Aleppo, head Syrian opposition commander General Salim Idris has appealed to the United States, France, and Britain for antitank missiles, antiaircraft weapons, and ammunition, to prevent the fall of Aleppo to the regime.

Headlines

  • Turkey’s ruling AK Party has offered a referendum on Istanbul’s Gezi Park as a concession to protesters; meanwhile, Prime Minister Erdogan said the protests "will be over in 24 hours."
  • Google reported it has "detected and disrupted" thousands of seemingly "politically motivated" phishing attacks on Iranian email accounts ahead of the June 14 presidential election.
  • The Jordanian Parliament has approved a treaty with Britain that would allow for the deportation of radical cleric Abu Qatada.
  • The editor of Iran’s state newspaper Kayhan called for fundamentalists to unite behind one candidate for Friday’s presidential election. 

Arguments and Analysis

Syria: Inventing a Religious War (Toby Matthiesen, The New York Review of Books, blog)

"Since late May, pictures of Hezbollah militants standing amid the ruins of al-Qusayr, the former Syrian rebel stronghold, have offered dramatic evidence of the extent to which foreign Shia fighters are shifting the course of the Syrian war. To many observers, the Lebanese militia’s entry into the conflict has shown definitively that it has been a sectarian war from the outset. According to this view, Syria’s Alawite sect, to which the Assad clan and its security forces belong, is "quasi Shiite," a fact which accounts for the government’s alliances to Iran and Hezbollah; while Syrian rebel forces are overwhelmingly dominated by the country’s aggrieved Sunni majority, now backed by the Sunni governments of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey, along with various foreign Sunni jihadis.

But Bashar al-Assad is head of an ostensibly secular Baathist regime and many Shia think that Alawites are heretics. Why exactly is Hezbollah getting involved, and is this conflict really rooted in religion? The answer to both these questions may lie in a suburb of Damascus called Sayyida Zainab, the site of an important Shia shrine and since the 1970s a haven for foreign Shia activists and migrants in Syria. Today, Hezbollah forces, along with Iraqi Shia fighters, defend the suburb. Though the story of Sayyida Zainab is little known in the West, it may help explain why what began as a peaceful uprising against secular authoritarian rule in 2011 has increasingly become a war between Shia and Sunni that has engulfed much of the surrounding region. "

Why Iran’s Rigged Election Matters (Bloomberg)

"This week’s presidential election in Iran could be easily dismissed as a charade. Just eight of almost 700 candidates were permitted to run, and Iran’s Revolutionary Guards have declared even the words "free and fair election" to be a U.S.-inspired call to sedition.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has stage-managed the vote, determined to block candidates who might challenge his authority or, worse, trigger unrest like that which marked President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s rigged re-election in 2009.

Yet who wins matters, both to Iranians and the world. This is why, even though turnout will be lower than in 2009, probably a greater percentage of Iranians will vote in their managed presidential vote on June 14 than Americans do in their free ones."

–By Jennifer T. Parker and Mary Casey

<p>Mary Casey-Baker is the editor of Foreign Policy’s Middle East Daily Brief, as well as the assistant director of public affairs at the Project on Middle East Political Science and assistant editor of The Monkey Cage blog for the Washington Post. </p> Twitter: @casey_mary

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