Syrian activist in Britain keeps grim toll of civil war

Syrian activist in Britain keeps grim toll of civil war
Rami Abdul Rahman.

LONDON - The founder of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Rami Abdel Rahman, rages at the "hypocrisy" of the international community in focusing on chemical weapons and overlooking the "endless bloodbath" in war-ravaged Syria.

Day after day, from a base in the drab central English city of Coventry, the exiled Rahman and his volunteers have counted the human toll of Syria's civil war ever since the conflict erupted in March 2011.

"In Syria, out of more than 120,000 people killed, 500 were killed with chemical weapons. Are these more horrendous deaths than the others?" the moustachioed Rahman tells AFP in an interview in London.

Rahman, who is in his forties and wears a dark suit, gestures feverishly with his hands to show his frustration and disgust at the situation.

"Nothing has changed at all. The clashes continue. Blood continues to be spilled and the intensity of the conflict increases," he says, speaking in Arabic through a translator.

"With the focus on chemical weapons, we forget about the daily deaths of the Syrian people by shelling, tank fire, gunfire, car bombs, mortars falling on civilian areas."

President Bashar al-Assad last month offered to give up Syria's chemical weapons in a Russian-brokered deal aimed at staving off a possible Western military strike.

But Rahman says that according to his figures the conflict is still killing 4,000 to 5,000 people a month, from soldiers, militia members and Lebanese Hezbollah fighters to rebels, jihadis and civilians.

The Observatory's gruesome tally is followed by all major international news organisations and by foreign governments, with journalists increasingly staying away from Syria because it is too dangerous.

"The regime commits dozens of atrocities every day," says Rahman, but he adds that the other side is also responsible for war crimes, as Al-Qaeda-affiliated groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and the Al-Nusra front try to establish an "alternative dictatorship".

Many of the pictures and videos of the conflict that the Observatory has collated on its website are so gruesome they are almost unwatchable.

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