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Syria: Multimedia site gives rare behind-the-scenes look at Amnesty International’s work amid the ruins of Raqqa

    June 06, 2019

    Marking the second anniversary of the start of the US-led Coalition’s military offensive in Raqqa, Syria, Amnesty International today launched “The Ruins of Liberation,” a multimedia storytelling site giving a behind-the-scenes look at its investigations in the bombed-out city.

    Panos photographer Andrea DiCenzo accompanied Amnesty International’s Senior Crisis Response Advisor Donatella Rovera on a visit to Raqqa in February 2019, documenting her investigation. Images by DiCenzo and Rovera are combined with audio commentary with Rovera giving an intimate description of the people she met and the reality she exposed. 

    Rovera and her fellow researchers – including a team of specialists in remote sensing and open-source investigation – investigated the Raqqa military campaign for over 18 months. They visited more than 200 strike sites, interviewed more than 400 survivors and witnesses, and released several reports, culminating in an unprecedented investigation in partnership with Airwars that documented the deaths of more than 1,600 civilians as a result of Coalition attacks – which dwarves the 180 deaths it has admitted.

    “On the ground in Raqqa I witnessed a level of destruction not comparable to anything I’ve seen in decades of covering the impact of war,” said Donatella Rovera.

    “This site brings home the reality of the suffering I encountered and explains why I kept returning: to seek justice for civilians trying to piece together their lives. Two years on, the US-led Coalition must investigate the full scale of civilian casualties it caused, and ensure victims and their families receive full reparation and compensation.”

    Background

    The US-led Coalition’s campaign to oust so-called “Islamic State” from Raqqa was among the most destructive in modern warfare. The offensive, lasting from 6 June to 17 October 2017 and led by US, UK and French forces, killed and injured thousands of residents and reduced homes, businesses and infrastructure to rubble.

    Civilians trapped by the fighting were prevented from fleeing by IS snipers and mines. Many were killed in their homes by the Coalition’s air bombardments and indiscriminate artillery strikes.

    Then Coalition commander Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend claimed the offensive had been “the most precise air campaign in history”, but field investigations conducted by Amnesty International reveal this is a far cry from reality.

    View “The Ruins of Liberation” here (please turn the volume on for the full experience):
    http://amnesty.nl/raqqa

    A selection of images linked to the “Ruins of Liberation” and Amnesty International’s investigation in Raqqa can be downloaded for republication:

    https://adam.amnesty.org/asset-bank/images/assetbox/f5d15ebb-8d04-4503-b579-26d2e83fc756/assetbox.html

    All images: © Andrea Di Cenzo/Panos/Amnesty International

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    For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:

    Lucy Scholey, Amnesty International Canada (English), + 613-744-7667 ext. 236, lscholey@amnesty.ca