London, Asharq Al-Awsat—Violence in Iraq and Syria killed more 90,000 people in 2014 as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) took over large swaths of territory in both countries.
The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights on Thursday announced that the conflict in Syria killed 76,021 people in 2014, while Iraqi government figures, also released on Thursday, said that 15,532 Iraqi civilians and security personnel were killed in the same year. The year proved to be one of the deadliest in recent history for the Middle East.
The Syrian Observatory said that just under half of the 76,021 people killed in 2014 were civilians. The 2014 death toll was more than double that of 2013, which stood at 33,278, it said.
In August, the United Nations estimated the total number of people killed since the start of the Syrian conflict in 2011 at 191,000, although activists say the actual figure is likely much higher.
The Syrian conflict is entering its fourth year with the situation on the ground significantly changed following the emergence of ISIS, with increased international efforts to secure a political resolution to the conflict between the Assad government and moderate Syrian rebels.
ISIS entered Iraq’s western Anbar province in June 2013, using the Sunni-dominated province as a base of operations to launch attacks on central and northern parts of Iraq, and taking control of Iraq’s second city Mosul of Mosul on June 10 and Tikrit on June 11.
Baghdad reported on Thursday that figures compiled by the country’s health, interior and defense ministries put the number of people killed in Iraq at 15,538. This figure is double the 6,522 people reported killed in 2013.
As with the situation in Syria, activists say that the real death toll in Iraq is likely far higher, particularly given the lack of verifiable statistics coming out of areas under ISIS’s control.
In his New Year speech, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi acknowledged that “for Iraqis, it has been the most difficult and painful of years because of the attack of ISIS terrorist gangs.”
With a US-led international anti-ISIS coalition carrying out airstrikes on the group’s positions in Iraq and Syria, and with the Iraqi government gearing up for a northern military offensive to retake Mosul, observers do not expect 2015 to be significantly less deadly for Iraqis.