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‘If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a virtual reality experience is worth a whole book’ – Kate Allen

Amnesty International has launched a new #360Syria “virtual tour” website showing the devastation wrought by Syrian government barrel bombing of the besieged city of Aleppo.

The site, called “Fear of the Sky” (www.360Syria.com), comprises specially-created 360-degree photography, narration, sound recordings, 3-D data graphics, and videos gathered by Amnesty-trained Syrian media activists.

The WebVR site takes the viewer into Aleppo’s rubble-strewn streets for a powerful and disturbing “immersive” experience. Visitors to the “Fear of the Sky” site can navigate around full-screen “photospheres” which capture the apocalyptic scenes and sounds after barrel bombing attacks. The images also feature the brave rescue efforts of unarmed civilian volunteers – the “White Helmets” – from the Syrian Civil Defence teams.

A narration from Syrian activist Razan Ghazzawi, now based in Leeds, explains how Aleppo has been subjected to intensive bombing by thousands of highly indiscriminate barrel bomb munitions – fuel tanks or gas cylinders packed with explosives, fuel and metal fragments – thrown out of hovering Syrian government helicopters. The #360Syria tour takes the viewer through the sights and sounds following barrel bomb attacks in several residential areas of Aleppo (Al Ansari Sharqi, Al Shaar and Tareq al-Bab), a school playground in the Saleheddine district, a market in the Boustan Al Qasr district, and the city’s main civil defence building. It also features barrel bombs scenes in other parts of Syria such as Douma and Damascus.

Amnesty has launched the #360Syria site working closely with a group of Syrian media activists from Aleppo called Lamba Media Production (http://lambaproduction.com). In the aftermath of barrel bombings and other attacks, these citizen journalists have visited various attack scenes to document the aftermath and to create a long-term body of evidence of widespread human rights violations by all sides in the conflict. Amnesty has helped train the Lamba activists in 360-degree photography, recently providing the group with RICOH THETA S 360-degree cameras to further develop the project.

The Syrian president Bashar al-Assad has claimed that government forces do not possess or use barrel bombs, though their use has been widely documented. Syrian human rights monitors say that almost 20,000 barrel bombs have killed over 8,000 civilians in the past two years alone. In a report last year, Amnesty detailed the horrific damage done by Syrian government barrel bombing of Aleppo, where scores of people a month were being killed in the attacks – with schools, hospitals, mosques and crowded market places all hit (see: www.amnesty.org.uk/press-releases/syria-pure-horror-life-aleppo-under-assads-barrel-bombing-new-report).