June 20th marks World Refugee Day. But the work of protecting the rights of refugees happens every day of the year. At WITNESS, we help refugees document their stories—specifically human rights violations, through creating and archiving important media that can be used to bring awareness to their experiences and help advocate for change. Here are some of the ways.
Training and How To’s
WITNESS’ work focuses not only on preserving documentation, but training communities on how to use video as a powerful tool to achieve justice. One way is face-to-face training on how to capture evidence around sensitive subject matter, such as gender-based violence, and how to record video that can be used as evidence of human rights violations.
Besides in-person training, we also provide tailored guidance on the use of video to achieve justice through online toolkits and how-to’s. This information, promoted on our regional social media feeds and blogs and downloaded in large numbers throughout the year, helps refugee communities capture footage without needing an expensive camera that still ensures they are getting the best evidence they can. For example, through our Eyes on ICE project, we’re developing resources, case studies and articles to support communities fighting against the U.S. administration’s attack on refugee and immigrant rights.
Refugee Footage and Storytelling
Civic video, as a form of documentation that comes directly from the people living in an area, is particularly important to telling the stories of refugees, and enabling refugees to tell the stories themselves. One impactful example of civic video is “Yemen: One Day in the Heart of the Revolution” by Ammar Basha — a Yemeni rights activist who attended our video trainings. The video highlights the resilience of the Yemeni, who are peacefully battling the oppressive regime. It also highlights the strength of the refugee community, and shows the importance of refugees being able to document and tell their own stories. See it for yourself:
Another issue we’ve documented is the intersection of the refugee crisis and gender-based violence. Rahima is a 21-year-old Rohingya woman who talks about how her family was pushed out of their home in Burma by the military. They use rape as a weapon of war in order to terrorize families and force them out. In this video, Rahima, who is an Internally Displaced Person, tells her story. This is the kind of violence forced migrants experience every day as they are pushed out of their homes and in some cases, even out of their countries.
Video can serve as a very powerful tool for refugees because it can be used to document atrocities that are occurring. But another key component to the use of video for evidence is archiving.
We know that human rights change can take a long time. Archiving videos is a crucial step in ensuring that these videos are safely preserved and can have an impact over the long-term. WITNESS partner Syrian Archive has meticulously verified and catalogued thousands of videos that document human rights abuses taking place in Syria and creates detailed reports using the collected evidence. The Syrian Institute for Justice — another WITNESS partner — uses footage to build cases against massacres and other human rights violations.
While we work with partners who support refugees on the ground, it’s crucial that our global community continue to speak up to defend and protect refugee rights. For example, in the US, you can call your representatives in DC and let them know you oppose refugee bans. Advocate for refugees regardless of where you live!