Syrian Observatory for Human Rights

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The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) founded in May 2006 is an information office opposed to the Government of Syria. Rami Abdulrahman's UK based SOHR has been cited by virtually every western news outlet since the beginning of the uprising.[1][2] After the start of coalition airstrikes against ISIL/ISIS in September 2014 SOHR is frequently quoted by major newsmedia, such as Voice of America, Reuters, BBC, CNN and National Public Radio about daily numbers of ISIL/ISIS fighters and civilians killed in airstrikes in Syria.

The United Kingdom-based SOHR is run out of a two-bedroom terraced home in Coventry by one person, Rami Abdulrahman,[3] a Syrian Sunni Muslim who also runs a clothes shop. After three spells in prison in Syria, Abdulrahman came to Britain in 2000 fearing a longer, fourth jail term.[1] New York Times[3] in April 2013 describes him being on the phone all day every day with contacts in Syria, and checking all information himself. Born Osama Suleiman, he adopted a pseudonym during his years of activism in Syria, and has used it publicly ever since.[3]

Mr. Abdulrahman's website is at syriahr.com and syriahr.net (in Arabic) and syriahr.com/en (in English).

In a December 2011 interview with Reuters,[1] Abdulrahman said the observatory has a network of 200 people and that six of his sources had been killed. Abdulrahman reports on events in the Syrian uprising, including the deaths of civilians, rebels and army defectors (which he calls "martyrs")[4] and government soldiers.[5]

Rival claims to the name[edit]

(As of 2014-09-29 Syriahr.org appears to be a Japanese-language website about horseracing. Syrianhr.org is password protected.)

The website Syriahr.org claimed that Rami Abdulrahman was in fact called Osama Ali Suleiman and he merely used the name Rami Abdulrahman, a pen-name that the website claimed to have been initially used by all "SOHR members".[6] Syriahr.org claimed that Abdulrahman was able to wrest control of the SOHR website Syriahr.net in August 2011 by changing all the passwords and that he proceeded to make himself the chairman of the SOHR, upon which an organisation claiming to be the 'real' SOHR created the rival website Syriahr.org.[6] This new website Syriahr.org then proceeded to attack Abdulrahman, claiming he only had a "very modest level of education", thus not able to "communicate professionally in English," and condemning his "lack of professionalism" and even alleging that he is a member of the Kurdistan Workers' Party.[6][7][8]

Abdulrahman, meanwhile, says the new site Syriahr.org is run by Mousab Azzawi, who used to translate for the SOHR[2] but was fired after falsely claiming to be an official spokesman for the organisation and calling for foreign intervention in Syria.[7] The SOHR which was run by Mousab Azzawi had stated that they consider reporting on the deaths of government soldiers to be "not in their interest".[2][7] Since the early conflict, it appears that Azzawi's Syriahr.org is inactive and has adopted the name Syrian Network for Human Rights with a website Syrianhr.org whereas Abdulrahman's group continues to use the sites Syriahr.net (Arabic version) or Syriahr.com/en (English version).

Criticism[edit]

SOHR has been accused of selective reporting, covering only violent acts of the government forces against the opposition for the first two years of its existence. Although critics concede that its reports have become less partisan, critics interviewed by AsiaNews charge that as of 2013 SOHR "continues to defend Islamic extremists to avoid losing support among rebel forces".[9]

SOHR's methodology for counting civilian victims has been questioned by Patrick Henningsen on Russia Today[10] as the organisation includes opposition combatants among the number of civilian casualties, as long as these are not former members of the military.[11]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Abbas, Mohammed; Golovnina, Maria (editing) (8 December 2011). "Coventry - an unlikely home to prominent Syria activist". Reuters. Archived from the original on 11 June 2012. Retrieved 11 June 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c "Russia questions credibility of Syrian Observatory for Human Rights," RT (25 February 2012). Retrieved 6 May 2013.
  3. ^ a b c "A Very Busy Man Behind the Syrian Civil War’s Casualty Count". New York Times. 9 April 2013. Retrieved 31 May 2013. 
  4. ^ "26 civilians killed in Syria on Friday: Observatory". The Asian Age. 18 February 2012. Archived from the original on 11 June 2012. Retrieved 11 June 2012. 
  5. ^ "Syrian Observatory for Human Rights". Syriahr.com. Retrieved 12 September 2012. 
  6. ^ a b c "Important Letter from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights about Rami Abdul Rahman". 
  7. ^ a b c Bennet, Ivor (9 February 2012). "Deaths in Syria: Counting them (politically) correctly". Russia Today. Archived from the original on 11 June 2012. Retrieved 29 February 2012. 
  8. ^ "The Syrian Observatory: The Inside Story". Al Akhbar. 26 January 2012. Retrieved 19 February 2012. 
  9. ^ AsiaNews: Massacres by Islamic extremists bolster Bashar al-Assad, 17 June 2013, retrieved 8 July 2013
  10. ^ Patrick Henningsen, "Re-writing legal language and political nudging – new US strategy for Syria," RT (3 May 2013). Retrieved 6 May 2013.
  11. ^ Al-Gharbi, M. (2013). "Syria Contextualized: The Numbers Game". Middle East Policy 20: 56–67. doi:10.1111/mepo.12003.  edit

External links[edit]