A rigorous new study by the United Nations Office of Human Rights has confirmed 191,369 deaths from the Syrian civil war since it began in 2011, of which about 100,000 have been killed in the last 14 months alone.
It's a staggering number, even for those who have been following the war closely. It's more shocking still for the fact that it surely undercounts the actual toll — these are just the 191,369 confirmed deaths out of the 318,910 reported, and surely many went unreported. And this does not even attempt to count indirect causes such as starvation and lack of medical care, both of which the Assad regime has deliberately used against civilians.
It can be difficult to comprehend the scale of even those 191,369 lives wiped out, in such a small area over such a short period, especially for those of us trying to wrap our minds around it from thousands of miles away. Here, then, to help put that number in context, are several conflicts or other incidents of similar scale.
To be clear, a conflict's severity and its harm are measured beyond simple death toll. But this is to help grasp at least that figure. So far, after barely more than three years of fighting, the Syrian civil war's minimum death toll is roughly equivalent to:
Again, this is all based on just the 191,369 confirmed deaths, though the actual death toll is likely far higher. And the point is not to argue that one conflict or disaster is worse than another, but to put the Syrian war's staggering, mind-warping death toll in perspective.
The comparison with the United States is especially striking: though the US has 15 times as many people as Syria, the number of Syrians who have died in their three-year civil war is about double the number of Americans who have died in every war since World War Two. That includes American combat as well as non-combat deaths, over 70 years and four major wars. Double.
The most alarming thing about the Syrian war's death toll, however, isn't just its size: it's the fact that its accelerating. About 100,000 of those deaths are just from the last 14 months of the three-year conflict. And the war is getting worse by the day, which means that number will only go higher.