More than 3,700 people killed in 2021, the lowest since the start of the conflict

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported a steady decline in recent years. This year, 1,505 civilians were killed, including 360 children. Some 297 people were killed by anti-personnel mines and explosive devices. Human rights groups say that the situation remains critical, unsuited for the return of refugees.

Damascus (AsiaNews) – The latest death count in Syria’s ongoing civil war reports 3,746 people killed in 2021, the lowest number since the start of the conflict in March 2011.

According to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), which relies on an extensive network of correspondents in the country, at least 1,505 of the dead are civilians, including 360 children. The others are Syrian soldiers, jihadis, and rebel fighters.

Some 297 people were killed by anti-personnel mines and explosive devices, a problem still topical in both Syria and Iraq after years of war and Islamic State insurgencies.

This year’s body count is down from 6,800 in 2020 and more than 10,000 in 2019. The drop, experts say, is due to a series of factors, including the end of fighting in much of the country after Syria’s regular army retook rebel-held territories with the help of Iran and Russia.

In the north-western province of Idlib, which is still under rebel control, a fragile ceasefire was brokered by Russia and Turkey in March 2020 and extended this year. Despite persistent tensions, the tenuous truce has held, cutting the number of battle-related casualties.

For some powers, the steadily decreasing numbers of dead is a positive development, a sign that Syria is a more peaceful and safer country, with the conditions for the return of the millions of refugees who fled at the height of the conflict.

In reality, several NGOs and human rights groups have challenged that view, stressing how much the situation on the ground is still dangerous, unsuited for the return of people already living in conditions of extreme difficulty.

In fact, people returning face arbitrary detentions, forced disappearances, violence against former rebels and regime opponents persuaded to go home as part of a policy of “reconciliation".

Moreover, international sanctions and the Caesar Act imposed by the United States have affected the civilian population even more than the fighting, making them the victims of unfair collective punishment and a source of endless suffering.

Many feel like exiles in a land that has not yet left behind the violence of past struggles in order to look to the future, although there is no shortage of reconstruction projects, some linked to international tourism after a long period of isolation and marginalisation.