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Posted on on January 5th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (

From Jay HaubenĀ  —

Syria: UN numbers?


The Moon of Alabama blog post for Jan 2 2013 casts an eye on the source of the recent UN statement about the number of deaths in Syria.

“They Make Up Numbers”

January 02, 2013

I’ll paste below the blog post and the 90 comments that appeared below it.

The question is not so much how many deaths but what forces are responsible for the great majority of them.

Your opinion may differ, but from the evidence I have seen, the answer has been from the very beginning that the armed insurgents and jihadist fighters have been the main source of killings in Syria.

Some of that evidence is in this video from a Russian TV station:

I am interested in any thoughts about this.

Take care.



Moon of Alabama
January 02, 2013
“They Make Up Numbers”

At least 60,000 people have died in Syria’s conflict, UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay says.

How does Navi Pillay knows this? The UN does not have any presence in Syria.

At least 60,000 people have died in Syria’s conflict, UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay said on Wednesday, citing what she said was an exhaustive UN-commissioned study.

The new study, by Benetech, a non-profit technology company, showed deaths rising from around 1,000 per month in the summer of 2011 to an average of more than 5,000 per month since July 2012.


Using scientific methods from demography, epidemiology, and mathematical statistics, the Human Rights group at Benetech transforms information into knowledge about past and on-going human rights violations.

But that does not explain where the information that gets “transformed” by Benetech is actually coming from. I have yet to find their “sources”.

Benetech’s funders, according to its website, include the National Endowment for Democracy, the Soros Open Society Institute and the US Department of State.
Are those also the entities that generate the information Benetech is “transforming”?

Is it really well advised for the United Nations to use a U.S. government funded entity to calculate some inevitably disputed numbers of casualties when the U.S. is supporting one side of the conflict?

UPDATE: Here is the full Benetech report (pdf). As expected the analysis is based on information that, at least for all of 2012, comes solely from Syrian opposition groups. The process of analysis performed therein can be described as garbage in, garbage mixing and garbage out. It is pure opposition propaganda, laundered through a U.S. financed entity, to be presented by a partisan UN Human Rights Commissioner.

Posted by b on January 2, 2013 at 11:14 AM | Permalink

Welcome back, b. The question you raise should answer itself. I hope that others will pick up the thread suggested by your query.

Posted by: Hannah K. O’Luthon | Jan 2, 2013 11:35:23 AM | 1

“transforms information into knowledge”


Rather, dresses up opposition propaganda as fact. The UN stopped counting at around 3000, claiming that it was no longer possible to independently verify figures. But when was it ever? Now, with no representation in Syria, they regurgiate this biased nonsense and slap a UN sticker on it.

I wonder if one of Benetech’s ‘scientific methods’ was to multiply 100 deaths per day by 20 months. That’ll about do it.

Posted by: Pat Bateman | Jan 2, 2013 11:45:10 AM | 2

Where was Benetech when the US was shock-and-awing in Iraq and Afghanistan? Currently the UN is a virtual branch of the US State Department, especially when that “world threat” Iran and its allies are concerned. State calls this propaganda “public diplomacy.”

The mission of American public diplomacy is to support the achievement of U.S. foreign policy goals and objectives, advance national interests, and enhance national security by informing and influencing foreign publics and by expanding and strengthening the relationship between the people and government of the United States and citizens of the rest of the world.

And if “domestic publics” are also influenced it’s good too.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Jan 2, 2013 12:36:00 PM | 3

from Benetech

Palo Alto, CA, June 6, 2004: Benetech, the leading Silicon Valley technology development nonprofit, announced today that it has received a $450,000 grant from the United States Department of State to support the Martus. Project, an innovative open source technology tool and support network that assists grassroots NGO workers worldwide to collect, safeguard and disseminate information on social justice violations. This grant will enable Benetech to introduce the Martus technology to NGOs throughout Africa.

The grant is intended to fund outreach and training initiatives to extend the Martus technology to work for individuals and groups operating in Algeria, Egypt, Kenya and Nigeria in social justice fields such as human rights. Benetech will be working in partnership with regional, national and local NGOs to help identify and train NGO workers that monitor human rights in these countries. This project represents the first grant awarded to Benetech by the Department of State.

.The State Department represents a funder that recognizes the importance of monitoring human rights abuses and that once this information is collected by NGOs, it can be used to bring insight, clarity and justice around the world,” stated Benetech CEO Jim Fruchterman. .Through this program, NGOs will be able to monitor human rights abuses with a level of security never before available..

Apparently, from the b comment above, the “innovative open source technology tool” Martus was not used by Benetech for this project, what with the ‘reliable’ Syria Observatory in London only a phone call away.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Jan 2, 2013 12:40:59 PM | 4

Nice job, b.

Those figures always seemed to be grossly exaggerated. The ones in Libya during the Israeli-American assault upon that country also seemed to be way too high.

Posted by: … … | Jan 2, 2013 12:43:25 PM | 5

Update on the assault of Yarmouk by Israel-America. The info about this also being concealed and lied about in the western media, who attempted to portray the Israeli-American operation there as the Syrian government indiscriminately bombing and shelling the residents and then forcing them to flee.

Mossad agents in the Al-Qaeda unit that attacked the Yarmouk camp

“The battle that raged starting December 9 in the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp (south of Damascus) has revealed new alliances.

The strategic objective was to involve Palestinians in the war in Syria, mobilizing them on a sectarian basis (they are mostly Sunni) against the secular regime. But the refugees did not allow themselves to be manipulated, no more than in Lebanon in 2007, when the mercenaries of Fatah al-Islam tried to mobilize the Palestinians of Nahr el-Bared against Hezbollah.

Elements of Hamas loyal to Meshaal allowed fighters of the Al-Nousra Front (Levantine branch of Al-Qaeda) to enter the camp where they mainly clashed with men of the PFLP (nationalists and Marxists).

It now appears that the al-Qaeda fighters were not only made up of Muslim extremists, but also included Israeli Mossad agents. They had specific plans for cornering the leaders of other Palestinian factions and eliminate them. Not finding them, they allowed the other members of Al-Qaida to systematically loot the empty apartments of these leaders.

After a week of heavy fighting, elements of al-Qaida, Mossad-included, retreated and the camp was declared a “neutral zone.” Of the 180 000 inhabitants, about 120,000 had fled the camp at the request of the Syrian authorities and were relocated by them to Damascus. Most are now back home.”

Posted by: … … | Jan 2, 2013 12:53:05 PM | 6

Happy New Year and welcome back!

Very good point b,

The Wikipedia page covering Syria Casualties makes interesting reading, and so do the opposition human rights organizations referred to in the article.

the opposition websites, who have vested interest in pushing up the numbers and ALL claim to have local volounteers recording and updating their databases, but they are actually reporting much lower numbers.

The most “prominent” is SOHR, and they are reporting 46,000 total deaths and this includes more than 11,000 Regime combatant fatalities. Leaving 34,000, of which 2000 are defectors and unidentified, of the remaining 32000, the SOHR admit that “those killed in the uprising, stated that civilians who had taken up arms during the conflict were being counted under the category of “civilians”.”

Another site,, is reporting almost 48,000 dead, with 5000 being classified as combatants, the remaining 43000 are civilians, of which about 4000 are females and another 4000 are children, leaving 35,000 Adult males classified as civilians.

Yet another site,, the most professional looking of the lot, is reporting slightly less than 40,000 “martyrs” to date. Of these, 7000 are claimed to be combatants, which leaves 33000 classified as civilians. And of these civilians, 3000 are children and another 3000 are female adults. Which leaves about 27000 adult male civilians.

Among the opposition websites the number of adult females and children killed is consistent, about 3 to 4 thousand up to date. But clearly, something seems wrong with the adult male classifications.

All I can say is that if your an adult male living in Syria, stay home, your obviously being targeted whether your a combatant or not. Interesting to note here that, there appears to be no casualties caused by the FSA except Syrian military casualties, they are either really good shots or the Syrian Army is just not trying very hard to win it.

Posted by: OAB | Jan 2, 2013 1:04:03 PM | 7

well, obviously they are trying to revitalize the “responsibility to protect”.
which must be connected to the bad luck of the “rebels” on the battle field.
I just do not see any country’s army applying for the role of protector.

Conflicts forums/Amal Saad Ghorayebs summing up of the situation is probably the most realistic one

“While Iran, Hizbullah and many in the Syrian government will continue to view significant military advances as an exigent need for .cleansing. as much territory as possible, such battlefield successes are increasingly being viewed as ways of strengthening the government.s bargaining position in an internal dialogue, and Iran and Russia.s negotiating position in talks for a broader regional agreement with the US and its Arab allies.”

Posted by: somebody | Jan 2, 2013 1:08:54 PM | 8

One reason to inflate casualties and then attribute most of these to the Syrian government is it works to hide the terrorist attacks committed by Israeli-American proxy forces operating in Syria. The intended use of these terrorists is to intimidate the Syrian people, as is the intent of death squad use everywhere. But allowing this terrorism to be known to people whose governments are committing these war crimes works against Israel-America and its phony propaganda claims about Syria, so they obscure their terrorism with invented figures, which are then attributed to acts of the Syrian government.

Besides the hospital attack, this article also contains info on the Israeli-American terrorism against the Yarmouk camp:

Foreign-backed militants attack hospital in Damascus countryside

Posted by: … … | Jan 2, 2013 1:20:25 PM | 9

Benetech only does human rights propaganda, so we’ll have to rely upon “government officials who can’t reveal their identity because of the sensitivity of the matter” for the usual Syria missile and chemical weapon propaganda.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Jan 2, 2013 2:12:54 PM | 10

Well, let us take the numbers game seriously.

The difference in the mortality rate per 1000 persons according to the CIA between Cuba (7.52) and Sweden (10.21)
is more than two people.

For 20,000,000 Syrians that would be a difference of 40 000 in one year or 80 000 in two years.

The UN should intervene in Sweden.

Yes, Cuban health policy is pretty good.

Posted by: somebody | Jan 2, 2013 2:27:51 PM | 11

By the way, Syria’s health system also used to be very good.

Posted by: somebody | Jan 2, 2013 2:35:07 PM | 12

Actually, according to public diplomacy nothing is more important right now than Syria lives, even compare to Swedes, which is why(?) the US is prolonging the war there. You might say that Syrians are Number One on the US hit parade.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Jan 2, 2013 2:51:12 PM | 13

Well, the difference in 2010 in the mortality rate between Syria (3.54) and the United States (8) seems to have been 4 persons per 1000 people per year. Which means UN estimated 30,000 per year for 20,000,000 million people, i.e. an average of 1.5 persons per 1000 people in addition proves Syria at 5 to 8 deaths per 1000 people to be still the healthier place.

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