SAYDNAYA – Insight into a Syrian Torture Prison

A project by Forensic Architecture, London.

Q&A with: Simone Rowat

Apart from a vague satel­lite photo on Google Earth, there are no pic­tures of the noto­ri­ous Syrian prison Sayd­naya, around 30 kilo­me­ters north of Dam­as­cus. Visits are for­bid­den, and orga­ni­za­tions such as Amnesty Inter­na­tion­al and the Red Cross are denied access. To the out­side world, the prison is an impen­e­tra­ble black hole, and the rec­ol­lec­tions of former pris­on­ers are the only source of infor­ma­tion. Amnesty Inter­na­tion­al, in copro­duc­tion with Foren­sic Archi­tec­ture, has used their tes­ti­mo­ny to create a vir­tu­al 3-D recon­struc­tion of the tor­ture prison. (idfa)

Foren­sic Archi­tec­ture inter­viewed five sur­vivors from Sayd­naya prison and worked with their rec­ol­lec­tions. With next to no day­light, in par­tic­u­lar in the soli­tary cells under­ground, the pris­on­ers devel­op an acute expe­ri­ence of sound. Detainees were made to cover their eyes with their hands when­ev­er a guard entered the room and speak­ing was pro­hib­it­ed, so pris­on­ers became attuned to the small­est noises. […] “Echo pro­fil­ing” helped to deter­mine the size of spaces such as cells, stair­wells and cor­ri­dors […] while “sound arte­facts” sim­u­lat­ed the noise of doors, locks and foot­steps, help­ing gen­er­ate fur­ther acoustic mem­o­ries. (saydnaya.amnesty.org)

Foren­sic Archi­tec­ture is an inter­dis­ci­pli­nary research group led by archi­tect Eyal Weiz­man at Gold­smiths, Uni­ver­si­ty of London. Spe­cial­ized on devel­op­ing archi­tec­tur­al evi­dence, they sup­port NGOs, human rights orga­ni­za­tions and public pros­e­cu­tions. Sound artist Lawrence Abu Hamdan (Beirut) designed the repro­duc­tion of the acoustic expe­ri­ences. With inter­view quotes as inserts and the vir­tu­al 3-D space com­bined with sounds, the SAYDNAYA project cre­ates a jour­ney through a place of sheer horror. Editor Simone Rowat will guide the audi­ence through the inter­ac­tive doc­u­men­tary and elab­o­rate on the work­ing process of the research group.

www.saydnaya.amnesty.org

www.forensic-architecture.org

In coop­er­a­tion with infor­ma­tion­szen­trum 3. welt and kindly sup­port­ed by Aktion Selb­st­besteuerung e.V.