The Blog

Virtual Reality: The Gifts We have For Aleppo

On a microscopic level, I introduce Darren Emerson, the innovative Director, Filmmaker and founder of VR City, who simulated a 360° virtual reality film named, 'Invisible' depicting life in the detention UK immigrant system, "through the true voices of peoples experiences".

According to sources in Aleppo a third convoy was being prepared to depart on Thursday, the total number reaching over 4000 evacuees, only 5% of the estimated 80,000 to leave. Whilst a gruesome and bloody genocide ensues, to which we continue to painfully bare witness to, on Twitter, #Youth4Aleppo held a demonstration at 10 downing street, in London earlier this week, I was hopeful. In a matter of hours of organising, hundreds of activists were pulled together. Around 9pm in the winter darkness, over a thousand humans gathered outside the Syrian embassy for the second demonstration on the same night. To hear footage from reporter and film-maker Bilal Abdul Kareem, a courageous voice and drive for listeners globally from Aleppo, the message was light. He called out:

"if Aleppo is important to you, then you have to understand Aleppo is happening all over Syria, if you want to make a difference, women and men are dying under missiles every single day and you have to be willing to say enough is enough and rally your leaders", calling protestors to,"be engaged, be active, if you don't you will fall into the narrative".

On a microscopic level, I introduce Darren Emerson, the innovative Director, Filmmaker and founder of VR City, who simulated a 360° virtual reality film named, 'Invisible' depicting life in the detention UK immigrant system: "through the true voices of peoples experiences". The film can be seen via headsets that, "you can't turn away from", for audiences to experience and momentarily feel what it is to be deported in today's world, transported through 360° surround visuals generated by glare and head movement.

With the nature of the UK Immigration detention centres, likened to high-security prisons, they are positioned in hidden locations, with limited access "you would not find it unless you were looking". The film which will be posted on the New York Times app this Monday 19th December, features three parts: coming to the UK claiming asylum, lack of information on what will happen as they sit behind bars with no access to internet, and the self-harm and suicide from mental scars of being held for an indefinite amount of time.

Darren comments: "people easily make distinctions between good and bad immigrants, they may leave the detention centres eventually but the centre never leaves them."

Unfortunately, this heinous narrative has circulated around our media spheres, for far too long. Tainting the name of Syrian asylum seekers finding an alternative to the horrors they face at home. Contributing to the apathy felt in the west today, generated by monstrous images of denied refugees.

Darren recalls: "there was a great part at the end of the film where a small protest takes place, some people present felt proud and empowered whilst others felt saddened by how small the group protesting was,"

An accurate representation of the split in consensus here. He says: "awareness through film, will create more public pressure". Where virtual reality is a "slightly different language of story-telling, immersed in something that feels quite metaphysical, you connect in a way you wouldn't get to through normal mediums."

To reiterate, there are already many articles and informative pieces, outlining what we can do here in the west, specifically the UK. Which if everyone committed to, would undeniably be difficult to ignore. Fatima an activist and student based in London who attended the protest on Tuesday said on Twitter:

"I believe everyone is capable of doing something, but we convince ourselves that it's in the hands of the international community, despite the fact that they have failed Syria over and over again".

In humanity, there is a simple but powerful rule, It takes one intrepid individual to change a point of view and bring about a new idea, it takes one more individual to join that person to create a movement, a couple more and you have a revolution. Each of us in our own unique, creative, numerical, sporting, theatrical, medicinal, astrophysical way can help with talent and ideas. We are lead to remember the timeless quote, 'I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples'. Ranya Alakraa a Syrian activist based in London said:

"we mustn't let people forget like we forgot the Houla massacre or the chemical attacks in Ghouta".

Spending an extra hour breaking down the political complexities of the region that politicians will have you confused about. Admitting to not knowing much to welcome more knowledge, research to eradicate doubts and donate more to charities involved like The White Helmets and Hand in Hand for Syria. Petitioning, working to diminish hesitancy, and working on personal apathy. Bilal Abdul Kareem on his Twitter calls out via video to us, after intense shelling resumed in Aleppo on Tuesday, "It appears when people are disengaged the sounds of war are stoked again. I need for everybody to retweet it as much as you can, everybody must stay engaged get educated". There will be another demonstration held for Aleppo this Saturday in London 17th December 2016 marching from Marble Arch, Hyde park from 12.30 - 16.30. We are all accountable for what we will do, it starts with intention, and an overdue conversation we must each have with ourselves.

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