‘This is a first for street fundraising … it’s shocking and it’s meant to be’ - Reuben Steains
Barrel bombs killed more than 3,000 civilians in the Aleppo region alone last year
Amnesty International has launched a new “virtual reality Aleppo” street fundraising campaign which transports people from the streets of Britain to the devastated streets of war-torn Aleppo in Syria.
Amnesty street fundraisers with virtual reality viewers showing apocalyptic scenes of destruction in barrel-bombed districts of Aleppo will be on the streets of London, Manchester and Leeds from the week of 11 May.
Members of the public will be given the opportunity to view the specially-created 360-degree images through virtual reality headsets offering a powerful immersive experience. The images, created by Syrian human rights activists working closely with Amnesty, show the districts of al-Sha’ar and Al Fardos in Aleppo after barrel bombs struck the areas last month.
The highly cost-effective project uses inexpensive refurbished smartphones and low-tech virtual reality headsets (costing less than £15 each). The photographs have been taken by a group of Syrian citizen journalists known as Lamba Media Productions, who have been documenting the destruction caused by barrel bombing and other attacks on the besieged city of Aleppo.
Highly destructive Syrian government barrel bombs (see below) have had an overwhelming impact on the people still living in Aleppo, and campaigners believe that a 360-degree imaging of the impact areas communicates the reality of their use like no other photograph or video can. The project is currently visuals-only, but future designs are likely to incorporate audio, text-rich annotations and film.
Amnesty International UK Innovations Manager Reuben Steains said:
“This is a first for street fundraising. These immensely powerful images transport you in an instant from an ordinary British high street to scenes of apocalyptic destruction in Aleppo. It’s shocking and it’s meant to be.
“This is not just street fundraising, this is Amnesty innovating in how we shine a light. The focus is on offering passers-by a memorable and arresting experience which we believe will connect with them in a deeper way.
“The horrors of barrel bombing aren’t happening here but they are happening now. Seeing these immensely affecting images will, we believe, have a genuinely transformative effect on the viewer.”
Fundraising to support Syrian activists
The fundraising drive will be encouraging members of the public to follow their immersion in the Aleppo imagery with support for Amnesty International UK and its work on Syria, including specific projects to train and equip citizen journalists and other human rights activists in Syria. After engaging with street fundraisers, members of the public will be invited to sign up for a direct debit donation to Amnesty International UK. During the four years of the Syrian crisis Amnesty has been amassing evidence of widespread human rights violations - including war crimes and crimes against humanity - and the Aleppo images form part of the organisation’s ongoing efforts.
Barrel bombing in Aleppo
Barrel bombs killed more than 3,000 civilians in the Aleppo region alone last year, and over 11,000 in Syria as a whole since 2012. Last month local activists recorded at least 85 barrel bomb attacks in Aleppo city, killing at least 110 civilians. The Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has denied that his forces have used barrel bombs, despite mounting evidence to the contrary (for more on barrel bombing in Aleppo, go here
Barrel bombs are oil barrels, fuel tanks or gas cylinders packed with explosives, fuel and metal fragments designed to kill and maim in an indiscriminate fashion. The deadly munitions have been dropped by government force helicopters on schools, hospitals, mosques and crowded markets, and the besieged city of Aleppo has been particularly heavily hit. Many of Aleppo’s beleaguered residents have sought safety by moving into basements or underground bunkers.