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Exhibition opening- War in Raqqa: Rhetoric versus Reality

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Panel talk with Amnesty and Cambridge researchers who investigated the 2017 Coalition bombing of Raqqa, Syria and launch of art exhibition.


It has been two years since the US-led Coalition’s military campaign to oust the so-called “Islamic State” from Raqqa, Syria. This campaign was among the most destructive in modern warfare, leaving Raqqa is the most destroyed city in modern times. The offensive, lasting from June to October 2017, which included aerial bombardments by UK forces, killed and injured thousands of residents and reduced their homes, businesses and infrastructure to rubble.

This panel will feature Amnesty International and Cambridge researchers who investigated the devastation caused by the campaign (see Amnesty’s Senior Crisis Advisor, Donatella Rovera, Amnesty’s Digital Verification Corps Manager, Sam Dubberly, and Cambridge Student Co-Lead of the Digital Verification Corps, Matt Mahmoudi, will discuss the investigation and the campaign in the context of current events in Syria. After the talks, there will be a drinks reception to launch Amnesty’s art exhibition, ‘War in Raqqa: Rhetoric versus Reality.

Seating is limited, so please book here to reserve your place

The discussion opening the exhibition will be followed by drinks (6.30pm onwards).

The exhibition (Fitzpatrick Gallery, Queens College) will be open until 6th December 2019 (Mon – Fri, 10am-3.30pm).


Amnesty International has been investigating the Raqqa military campaign for over two years, which to date has included multiple visits to the destroyed city between February 2018 and February 2019. There, its investigators surveyed more than 200 strike sites and interviewed more than 400 witnesses and survivors. Exhibited here are examples of the impact of the military campaign on the city’s people and communities. Photographs, videos and 360-degree immersive experiences documented in Raqqa, combined with satellite imagery and maps, allow viewers to explore the stories of families who lived and died during the war in Raqqa. Throughout the exhibition, travel through the city to meet survivors, hear their stories and explore the ruins of their homes.

This exhibition complements Amnesty International’s interactive webbased platform which presents the findings of the investigation.


Donatella Rovera, Senior Crisis Adviser, London

Donatella Rovera’s role involves investigating human rights violations in crisis situations. Working at Amnesty International for 20 years, Rovera has travelled to some of the world’s most dangerous conflict zones to investigate war crimes and other gross human rights abuses. Recent field missions include Nigeria, Iraq, Yemen, South Sudan, Central African Republic, Somalia, Syria, Libya, Ivory Coast, and Sudan. Previously, she worked in Israel/Palestine, Lebanon, Algeria and other parts of the Middle East & North Africa. Rovera studied at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS, London University), specialising in Middle Eastern politics and economics. Subsequent training includes international human rights and humanitarian law, refugee law, and international criminal investigations. She also speaks English, French, Arabic, Spanish, Italian, and Hebrew.

Sam Dubberley, Digital Verification Corps Manager, Berlin

Sam Dubberley is the manager of the Digital Verification Corps at Amnesty International and co-founder of Eyewitness Media Hub. He has over ten years’ experience in broadcast news and was head of the Eurovision News Exchange from 2010 to 2013, managing the world’s largest exchange of television news content. As a fellow of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University, Sam co-authored a global study exploring the use of user-generated content in TV and online news output. He has published further research into the impact of UGC with Eyewitness Media Hub and First Draft News.

Matt Mahmoudi, Student Co-Lead, Cambridge Digital Verification Corps

Jo Cox PhD Scholar at the University of Cambridge, Program Lead at The Whistle, Founder at Declarations Podcast

This talk is part of the Centre of Governance and Human Rights Events series.

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