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Ethics in times of conflict: some reflections on Syria, in the backdrop of Iraq
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  • Published on:
    Researching the Syrian tragedy: The need for evidence and moral reflexivity
    • Adam Peter Coutts, PhD, Lecturer in Public Policy Department of Sociology, University of Cambridge
    • Other Contributors:
      • Aula Abbara, Academic researcher
      • Fouad Mohammad Fouad, MD, Assistant Professor
      • Donna McKay, Executive Director
      • Ahmad Tarakji, MD, President
      • Sophie Roborgh, Postdoctoral researcher
      • Annie Sparrow, MBBS MRCP FRACP MPH MD
      • Sharif Ismail, MBBS MPhil MPH, Academic Clinical Fellow in Public Health
      • Miriam Orcutt, MBBS, MSc,Visiting Senior Research Fellow
      • Zaher Sahloul, MD, Global Response chairman
      • Wasim Maziak, MD, PhD, Professor, Chair

    ‘The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them’ (George Orwell, Notes on Nationalism 1945).
    We read with concern Sen and colleagues’ discussion of potential breaches of ethical neutrality in the reporting of events in Syria by Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and academic researchers. We fully concur that any research must be based on rigorous methodologies and robust ethical frameworks. However, when engaging in debates on ethics and critiques of existing research one should adopt a morally reflexive position and consider all the evidence that exists no matter who has produced it.

    Over the past five years a large body of evidence from credible humanitarian and international organisations has been accumulated which clearly documents the use of chemical weapons, heavy weaponry, ballistic missiles, cluster and barrel munitions deployed by Syrian Arab Army (SAA) forces and its allies. It is unfortunate that in the Syrian context, no side has spared civilians or prioritised the protection and well-being of civilians. Human rights abuses have been carried out by all sides. However, abundant evidence exists that the SAA have been largely responsible for the mass of civilian casualties. A major study in the British Medical Journal of the causes of mortality in Syria attests to this. Since September 2015 the SAA has been assisted by the Russ...

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    Conflict of Interest:
    None declared.