Fri 24 May 19
Essex students have used social media content to help challenge official accounts of the bombing of the Syrian city of Raqqa.
The students, members of the Digital Verification Unit (DVU) at the Human Rights Centre, joined similar teams from five global universities to provide research for a ground-breaking, immersive report, published by Amnesty International.
War in Raqqa: Rhetoric Versus Reality alleges that, between June and October 2017, bombing by the US-led Coalition resulted in over 1,600 civilian casualties, over ten times the Coalition’s own figure.
The students applied geo-location and verification techniques to photo and video content shared from the city to build a detailed picture of where bombs and artillery shells fell.
Essex DVU member Arlen Millner said: “Open-source investigations like this are often slow and full of dead ends, with hours spent working together to identify features such as roads or mosques, and connecting them with geographic coordinates. Our research, combined with the analysis of satellite imagery carried out by volunteers as part of Amnesty Decoders helped identify some of the strike locations. To see the final report published is very rewarding – it’s a huge achievement for all concerned.”
Findings from the six university DVUs were checked by Amnesty staff on the ground, confirming a pattern which suggests, the report authors argue, indiscriminate bombing of residential neighbourhoods.
It suggests over 11,000 buildings were destroyed across the four-month campaign.