The research uncovers an episode of violence in the context of the conflict in Aleppo, Syria, in 2013. It profiles perpetrators, their networks and their main operators. It is very important to address the massacre as an act of violence away from the set criteria of genocide and quantitive measurements. Such an approach will make it very difficult for perpetrators to evade accountability.
I found that there is an issue to how ‘genocide’ is framed. It builds from Dirk Moses recent work on the ‘problem of genocide’, which explores the problem of language and framing when we talk about genocide, and compare crimes. It should not be about the classification and labelling of crimes, instead we should look at crimes as crimes. For example, if the death toll is one less than one thousand in one episode of violence, then it is not technically a genocide. But it should not matter if it is a genocide, a massacre, a homicide etc, it should matter that it is a crime. And these labels only serve to make crimes relative in severity. Death tolls are not a productive way to measure criminal violence.
This research calls for a greater focus on the perpetrators, rather than the victims. Because while the victims are extremely important, they are no longer living whereas the perpetrators remain and repeat the same violence.
But if you look at the data on this case, most of the videos and reports talk about the victims, rather than examine the perpetrators. It is usually easy to collect data on victims as you have enough people to speak to about the facts, their backgrounds, their families etc. Victims are usually easy to identify.
However, it is a lot harder to find out about the perpetrators, and there is a need for specificity about who was behind the violence, the communities and groups they belong to. But how do we research the perpetrators to ensure they are brought to justice and held accountable?
There also seems to be a use of passive language to avoid passing responsibility to the perpetrators. By saying “X people were killed” and “X people were found”, it already strips the responsibility of the perpetrators. And makes it very unclear who was behind the crime. This victim-focused language in the media moves focus away from the individual crimes and perpetrators and obstructs justice from being served.
Therefore, the focus of how we talk about crimes needs to change. Small episodes of violence (in Syria and similar events) should be viewed with a different framing, with a focus on the perpetrators rather than the victims.
This research was based on reports from forensic doctors, nurses, documents from human rights watch, documentaries, news articles, and an interview with one of the perpetrators.
However, there is a scarcity of evidence about the perpetuators surrounding violent acts (such as Aleppo 2013)
Ben Levett prepared this research following an interview with Ali Aljasem.