Syrian Rights Groups Raise Toll From Unrest #Syria (The New York Times)
By LIAM STACK
Published: April 5, 2011
CAIRO — Human rights groups on Tuesday raised their estimates of the death toll from unrest in Syria, as protest organizers there continued their call for more demonstrations against the rule of President Bashar al-Assad.
The tally has risen steadily in recent days as rights groups have struggled to document the number of dead from a government crackdown on dissent that began more than two weeks ago.
Wissam Tarif, the executive director of Insan, a Syrian rights group, said that at least 173 people had died in the unrest, including 15 in Douma, a working-class suburb northwest of Damascus, and 143 in and around Dara’a, the southern area where the protests began.
The Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights, working with the Damascus Center for Human Rights Studies, said it had documented 123 deaths, including 22 in Douma. It said it did not have a number of dead in Dara’a.
Both groups said their figures were based on testimony from doctors, families of the dead and witnesses. It was impossible to verify their numbers.
Pro-democracy advocates have called for a week of renewed protests in honor of those who have died, labeling it “a week of martyrs.” The advocates are part of a Facebook group called The Syrian Revolution 2011, which has more than 100,000 members.
Documenting the dead in Syria is complicated by the omnipresence of security forces and the government’s refusal to release the bodies of many of those killed at demonstrations, said Mr. Tarif and Radwan Ziadeh, the director of the Damascus Center for Human Rights Studies. The authorities in Douma have released 15 bodies, Mr. Ziadeh said, but families of seven more men have been told by witnesses that they were killed at protests.
Gunshot wounds accounted for most of the dead, both organizations said.
Mr. Tarif said his organization documented four cases of people injured at protests in Douma who were arrested by security forces inside the civilian Hamdan Hospital. They were taken to Tashreen Military Hospital, where families said they were denied treatment and later died, Mr. Tarif said.