That's where various groups of citizen journalists and social scientists come in. One such crowdsourcing effort, called Syria Tracker, has documented more than 36,000 killings from multiple types of sources as of mid-October,
including the above story about the baby killed. I will keep the names of those who run Syria Tracker, which is run by high-level social scientists,
anonymous out of respect for their safety. Groups doing this kind of work have already been threatened. But their
painstaking documentation, cited by USAID, can potentially tell us a great deal about what may be happening to Syria's civilians.
One way that Syria Tracker has broken down its catalogue of deaths is by gender. On
average, according to the group, about 9 percent of the documented killings across Syria are of women, who are unlikely to have picked up arms in the
conflict, and girls, who are inherently noncombatants. That means that, at minimum, nearly one casualty in 10 is likely a civilian, their statistics show.
These women and girls are being killed in various ways -- everything from stabbing to shelling to gunshots -- many of which may be considered prosecutable
internationally. "When Syrian armed forces have used indiscriminate air bombardment or artillery to attack civilian areas, these are war crimes," said
Sunjeev Bery, Amnesty International USA's advocacy director for the Middle East and North Africa.
The Syria Tracker reports contain a higher proportion of women killed since February, the group says, when there was a renewed attack on Homs. This spike
has not subsided since the agreed-upon ceasefire in October. "Government forces now routinely bomb and shell towns and villages using battlefield weapons
which cannot be aimed at specific targets, knowing that the victims of such indiscriminate attacks are almost always civilians," Donatella Rovera, Amnesty
International's senior crisis response adviser,
said in September
Beyond bombs, however, which make up 44 percent of Syria Tracker's documented killings of women and girls (vs. 23 percent for men), the group has found
that the lead causes of deaths of females break down as such: 14 percent gunshot wound (vs. 31 percent for men), 5 percent shot by sniper (vs. 4 percent
for men), and 3 percent "slaughtered," which, Syria Tracker told me, means "beaten or stabbed, something up close and personal" (vs. 1 percent for men).
Does this indicate the targeting of civilians? We don't know -- Are women caught in crossfire not meant for them? But it certainly begs the question. The
head of Syria Tracker certainly thinks it does. "In places where you have massacres, where the military or shabiha [plainclothes militia forces]
have gone in and massacred people, there's definite evidence of targeting, such as in Homs," says the group's founder, who is an epidemiologist, a
physician, and a statistician. "All were hung or all slaughtered, or all were handcuffed and killed the same way. You suddenly have a big spike in one
group, like women. It's very methodological. These people knew what they were doing when they went in."