After five years of war and against all the odds, civil society still survives inside Syria.
Unsurprisingly, a key priority for activists is to document the impact of the war on civilians and to appeal for help from the international community.
Since early 2011, Amnesty has been working closely with Syrian media activists to help them do just this. Following training and new equipment, they’ve helped us collect 360° photography to document the devastation caused by barrel bombing on cities across Syria. Their brave work brings us into the heart of devastated cities and a step closer to holding the perpetrators of these atrocities to account.
Some of this work is now presented on a remarkable virtual reality website – 360Syria – narrated by renowned Syrian activist and blogger, Razan Ghazzawi. It’s worth clicking through to the site. You can immerse yourself in the scenes and sounds from Syria, get a 360° picture of life for ordinary people in Syria, as well as video footage showing a barrel bomb crashing to earth and the rescue of a ‘miracle baby’ from a bombed-out building in Aleppo.
This documentary work now forms part of a body of evidence of human rights abuses, as well as providing a message of hope for the future.
The work of these Syrian activists fits with that of Amnesty. Our campaigning has an immediate focus on the need to prevent human rights abuses, ensuring accountability, demanding freedom for detained activists, urging Europe’s leaders to welcome more Syrian refugees and amplifying calls for increased humanitarian assistance and access. This reactive work sits within our long-term focus on a human rights vision for a new Syria in transition, with a healthy civil society at its heart.
The Great Big Politics Quiz, being held in The Black Box in Belfast on Friday evening as part of the Imagine Festival, will raise funds to support this and other work on Syria. Tickets available to book now.
I am the Northern Ireland Programme Director of Amnesty International UK and an occasional human rights blogger at Amnesty Blogs: Belfast & Beyond.
I’m on Twitter at @PatrickCorrigan