77sqm_9:26min

77sqm_9:26min

Counter investigating the testimony of Andres Temme in relation to the murder of Halit Yozgat in Kassel, 6 April 2006

Commissioned by the People’s Tribunal “Unravelling the NSU Complex”; Haus Der Kulturen Der Welt (HKW); Initiative 6 April; and documenta14

Shortly after 17:00 on the 6th of April 2006, Halit Yozgat, 21 years old, was murdered while attending the reception counter of his family run Internet café in Kassel, Germany. His was the ninth of ten racist murders performed by a neo-Nazi group known as the National Socialist Underground or NSU across Germany between 2000 and 2007. 

At the time of the killing an internal security agent of the State Office for Constitutional Protection (Landesamt für Verfassungsschutz) of the German state of Hessen named Andreas Temme was present in the shop. He did not disclose this fact to the police, but was later identified from his internet records.

In his interrogation by the police and in the subsequent NSU trial in Munich, Temme denied being a witness to the incident, and claims not to have noticed anything out of the ordinary. The court accepted his testimony. It determined that Temme was present at the back room of the internet café at the time of the murder. It also accepted that from his position in the shop it was possible not to have witnessed the killing.

Within the 77 square meters of the Internet café and the 9:26 minutes of the incident, different actors crossed paths — members of migrant communities, a state employee and the murderers — and were architecturally disposed in relation to each other. The shop was thus a microcosm of the entire social and political controversy that makes the “NSU Complex”.

In November 2016 eleven Years after the murder, the People’s Tribunal “Unraveling the NSU Complex” commissioned Forensic Architecture to investigate Temme’s testimony and determine whether it could be truthful.

Following are the results of our investigation. 


Forensic Architecture team

  • Eyal Weizman (Principle Investigator)
  • Christina Varvia  (Project & Research Coordinator)
  • Stefanos Levidis
  • Omar Ferwati
  • Simone Rowat
  • Nicholas Masterton
  • Yamen Albadin
  • Ortrun Bargholz
  • Eeva Sarlin
  • Franc Camps-Febrer
  • Hana Rizvanolli
  • Sarah Nankivell
  • Chris Cobb Smith (Advisor)
  • Lawrence abu Hamdan (Advisor)

Collaborators

  • Ayşe Güleç / People’s Tribunal “Unravelling the NSU Complex”, Initiative 6 April and documenta 14
  • Natascha Sadr Haghighian / People’s Tribunal “Unravelling the NSU Complex” and Initiative 6 April
  • Fritz Laszlo Weber / People’s Tribunal “Unravelling the NSU Complex”, Initiative 6 April and documenta 14
  • Cordula Hamschmidt / HKW
  • Khaled Abdulwahed
  • Cem Kayan
  • Vanina Vignal
  • Sebastian Bodirsky / People’s Tribunal “Unravelling the NSU Complex”
  • Dr. Salvador Navarro-Martinez / Imperial College London
  • Grant Waters / Anderson Acoustics
  • Armament Research Services (ARES)
  • Mihai Meirosu / Nvision Audio
  • Christopher Hupe / HKW
  • Frank Bubenwer
  • Gozen Atila
  • Markus Mohr / People’s Tribunal “Unravelling the NSU Complex”
  • Mathias Zieske
  • Serdar Kazak
  • Norma Tiedemann
  • Basak Ertur

Image Gallery

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Al-Jinah Mosque

Al-Jinah Mosque

US airstrike in Al-Jinah, Syria: Architectural assessment confirms building targeted was a functioning mosque, US misidentification possibly the cause for civilian casualties. 

18 April 2017

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Summary

Forensic Architecture has undertaken an architectural analysis of the March 16th 2017 US Airstrike in Al-Jinah, Syria. We conducted interviews with survivors, first responders and with the building’s contractor, and examined available and sourced videos and photographs in order to produce a model of the building both before and after the strike. Our analysis reveals that, contrary to US statements, the building targeted was a functioning, recently built mosque containing a large prayer hall, several auxiliary functions, and the Imam’s residence. We believe that the civilian casualties caused by this strike are partially the result of the building’s misidentification.

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The Incident

On the evening of March 16th 2017, a major unilateral US drone strike targeted Sayidina Omar Ibn Al-Khattab Mosque in Al-Jinah, in the province of Aleppo, Syria. According to witnesses, the strike took place when close to 300 people were in the building. Most were gathering for the Isha’a night prayer while 50 others remained in the smaller “winter prayer hall” where a religious seminar had just finished. The Syrian Civil Defense, also known as the White Helmets, claimed to have recovered the bodies of 38 civilians. Five of them were children. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported 42 dead but the actual death toll might still be higher.

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US Statements

The US Central Command claimed responsibility for the airstrike, stating, “US forces conducted an airstrike on an Al-Qaeda in Syria meeting on March 16th, killing several terrorists”. It wrongly identified the mosque as a “partially constructed community meeting hall”; wrongly located it in the province of Idlib; and claimed that there was no indication of civilian casualties. The Pentagon has later released an image showing the destroyed mosque and insisting it “deliberately did not target the mosque at the left edge of the photo.” This statement omits the fact that the targeted building also was a mosque that was in frequent use by locals.

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Forensic Architecture

In engaging with this case, Forensic Architecture focused on the architectural questions raised by the strike: What was the function of the building targeted? What can its architectural characteristics before the strike, and the state of the ruin afterwards, reveal about the incident? Where civilian casualties to be expected in such a building?

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Method of Investigation

Forensic Architecture constructed a detailed model of the building before and after the strike. In order to obtain the necessary information to do so, we undertook remote interviews with the mosque’s original contractor, several survivors of the US attack, and the director of the rescue operation Mohammad Halak of the Syrian Civil Defense (White Helmets). We then cross-referenced and confirmed our findings against available photographs, videos and satellite imagery of the building, and further commissioned several photographic surveys on the ground. In the preparation of this report Forensic Architecture was in continuous contact with Bellingcat, who helped provide much of the source imagery, and with HRW, who worked with us to corroborate finds, identify munitions, and locate witnesses. We have also benefited from research and advice provided by Airwars.

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Findings

Our report, presented as a video (above), confirms that the building was not a “partially constructed community meeting hall” but a large, functional mosque. The concrete and cinder block building was divided into two parts, north and south, separated by an entrance, a passageway and stairwells. It had two levels, with the upper level still incomplete in parts.

On the ground floor, the south part of the building contained the main prayer hall. The upper floor above it was still incomplete. The south part of the building was damaged in the strike but remained largely intact.

The northern part of the building contained a set of typical auxiliary functions of a mosque: a communal kitchen with a dining area, the toilets, a ritual wash area and the secondary, smaller prayer room, also know as the “winter prayer room”. A residential flat used by the Imam and his family was located above these functions on the upper floor of the northern part of the building. This part was completely destroyed in the strike.

As a result of the strike, the passageways connecting the two parts of the building were partially blocked by rubble. The stairwells connecting the ground level with the upper floor were also destroyed.

Witness testimonies and photographs of the building taken before the strike show that there were no doors separating the “winter prayer room”, the main passageway and the wash area. These rooms were accessible, as well as acoustically and visibly exposed.

Given that the building was open to the public, that a large number of local residents were free to move through and around it as they gathered for prayer, and that there was a publically accessible religious lesson with 50 people present, raises doubts regarding the likelihood that an Al-Qaeda meeting was taking place in the building at the time.

The architectural reconstruction has also allowed us to understand the sequence of events that took place in and around the mosque following the strike. The strike began when two bombs completely demolished the northern part of the building. The layout of the rubble in the deep craters is consistent with ground penetrating bombs. In order to escape, worshippers in the main prayer hall in the south part of the building had to climb over the rubble that partially blocked the doorways and passageways and destroyed the stairs. While people exited the building and immediately afterwards they were targeted by further missile strikes. Examining images of munitions remains, Chris Cobb-Smith (who assists Forensic Architecture on weapon analysis), Bellingcat, and HRW’s experts identified the munitions fired outside the mosque as likely to be Hellfire missiles. This is consistent with an anonymous US official who, when speaking to the Washington Post, confirmed that “the attack involved two Reaper drones, which fired more than four Hellfire missiles and dropped at least one 500-pound guided bomb in a follow-up strike.”

Sharing screens in a Skype call with Halak, the head of the rescue team, we identified the location of the casualties pulled out of the rubble. There were eleven people injured and eight killed as a result of the first two blasts within the northern part of the building, he said. They included the Imam’s wife, Ghassun Makansi, a fourteen-year-old boy named Mohammad Khalad Orabi, and his ten-year-old brother Hassan Omar Orabi. The rest of the casualties were caused by the secondary missile strikes outside the building. We identified traces of missiles on a nearby road and these traces support witness testimonies regarding the secondary strikes on evacuees.

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“Exchanging architectural plans and photographic analysis with people on the ground we managed to reconstruct a detailed model of the mosque. We believe that the US forces that targeted the building misidentified the nature of the building, leading to high levels of civilian casualties.”

-Omar Ferwati, FA Project Coordinator

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Resources

While undertaking this investigation, we exchanged information with Human Rights Watch, Bellingcat, and Airwars.

Video footage without voiceover and subtitles as well as the Arabic/English timecoded script is available upon request from Forensic Architecture.

Our video report is also available on our YouTube channel.

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This analysis was produced at Forensic Architecture’s own expense.

Forensic Architecture team

  • Eyal Weizman (Principal Investigator)
  • Christina Varvia
  • Omar Ferwati (Project Coordinator)
  • Nick Masterton
  • Simone Rowat
  • Stefanos Levidis
  • Sarah Nankivell

MSF Supported Hospital

MSF SUPPORTED HOSPITAL

Attack on MSF supported hospital in al-Hamidiah, Idlib, Syria

15 February 2016


On the morning of the 15th of February 2016, an MSF supported hospital in al-Hamidiah, a small village located south of Ma’arat al-Numan, Idlib Province, was hit by in two separate attacks. Each attack consisted of a number of strikes within a few minutes of one another.

In the immediate aftermath of the attacks on the MSF supported hospital, MSF publicly claimed that the strike on the hospital was ‘very likely’ carried out by Russian or Syrian forces. Their claim was met with denial from both Russian and Syrian governments, with the Syrian UN envoy talking about the “so called MSF hospital operating without permission” and Russia denying any responsibility. The controversy caused by MSF’s claims and the denial of the perpetrators highlighted the urgency to conduct a private investigations into these events. It is in this context that FA was commissioned by MSF to determine the perpetrators of the attack, which killed 25 people.

This work is part of a new collaboration between MSF and Forensic Architecture that aims to develop the independent capacity to investigate and report on hospital strikes worldwide.

Although multiple videos and photos claimed to capture the attack, FA was faced with a bipartite challenge. On one hand, both Russian and Syrian regime planes were carrying out air raids in the area of Ma’arat Al Numan on multiple medical facilities throughout the day; on the other hand, the media attention given to the attack on the MSF supported hospital meant most footage uploaded via news agencies and social media fell under the blanket term of ‘attack on MSF hospital’, even though the footage in question had not captured the attack on the MSF supported facility.

In order to determine which material captured which attack, FA cross-referenced testimony provided by MSF from people on the ground who witnessed the attack first hand, as well as publicly available testimony from the Free Syrian Army Observatory against spatial and temporal details found in the videos. These methods included image triangulation to locate the scene, shadow analysis to corroborate the time of recording, and observing clues as to the characteristics of the fighter planes involved. In doing so, it was possible to produce a clear timeline and map of the different attacks that occurred that day. The balance of probability resulting from this analysis tilted towards the attack on the MSF supported hospital being carried out by the Russian air force, while the attack on the other hospital later that day was more likely to have been carried out by the Syrian regime.

Furthermore, the report illustrates a coordinated strategy involving the systematic targeting of medical facilities, leaving Ma’arat al-Numan and its surroundings critically deprived of much needed medical infrastructure.

Forensic Architecture team

  • Eyal Weizman
  • Christina Varvia

Collaborating Organizations

 

 

Saydnaya

Saydnaya

Inside a Syrian Torture Prison


Since 2011 thousands have died in Syria’s prisons and detention facilities. With anyone perceived to be opposed to the Syrian government at risk, tens of thousands of people have been tortured and ill-treated in violation of international law.

In April 2016, Amnesty International and Forensic Architecture travelled to Istanbul to meet five survivors from Saydnaya Prison, near Damascus. In recent years, no journalists or monitoring groups which report publicly have been able to visit the prison or speak with prisoners.

As there are no images of Saydnaya the researchers were dependent on the memories of survivors to recreate what is happening inside.

Using architectural and acoustic modelling, the researchers helped witnesses reconstruct the architecture of the prison and their experiences of detention.  The former detainees described the cells and other areas of the prison, including stairwells, corridors, moving doors and windows, to an architect working with 3D modelling software. The witnesses added objects they remembered, from torture tools to blankets and furniture, to areas where they recalled them being used. The recollections sparked more memories as the model developed.

With next to no daylight, in particular in the solitary cells underground, the prisoners in Saydnaya 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.

To capture these auditory memories, researchers developed techniques to solicit “ear-witness testimony” and reconstruct the prison’s architecture through sound.

Witnesses listened to tones of different decibel levels, and were then asked to match them to the levels of specific incidents inside the prison. “Echo profiling” helped to determine the size of spaces such as cells, stairwells and corridors (this involved playing different reverberations and asking witnesses to match them with sounds they remembered hearing in the prison) while “sound artefacts” simulated the noise of doors, locks and footsteps, helping generate further acoustic memories.

Detainees at Saydnaya are generally transferred to the facility after spending months or even years in detention elsewhere. Such transfers often take place following unfair trials at secret military courts. Others arrive at the prison without having seen a judge and do not know the alleged charges against them or how long they will be detained.

The Saydnaya project is part of a wider campaign led by Amnesty International calling on the Syrian government to allow independent monitors into its brutal detention centres. Amnesty is urging Russia and the US “to use their global influence to ensure that independent monitors are allowed in to investigate conditions in Syria’s torture prisons”.

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Forensic Architecture team

  • Eyal Weizman (Principal Investigator)
  • Christina Varvia (Project Coordination)
  • Ana Naomi de Sousa (Video Filming, Co-directing, Co-production)
  • Lawrence Abu Hamdan (Interviews, Acoustic Investigation, Sound design)
  • Hania Jamal (Interviews, 3D Modelling)
  • Nestor Rubio (Website Design)
  • Stefan Laxness (3D Modelling, Animation)
  • Pierre-Francois Gerard (3D Modelling, 3D Panoramas)
  • Simone Rowat (Video Editing)
  • George Clipp (Video Editing)
  • Gochan Yildirim (Camera)
  • Mihai Meirosu (Sound Mixing)
  • Yamen Albadin (Translation, Assistant Video Editing)
  • Hala Makhlouf (Translation, Assistant Video Editing)
  • Ghias Aljundi (Translation)
  • Samaneh Moafi (3D Texturing)
  • Hana Rizvanolli (Project Assistance)
  • Susan Schuppli (advisor)
  • Francesco Sebregondi (advisor)

Collaborating Organizations & Individuals

  • Amnesty International
  • 1635film-istanbul
  • Vasif Kortun/SALT Galata
  • Fiona Gabbert/Goldsmiths’ University Forensic Psychology Unit
  • Goldsmiths’ University Computing Department
 


Introduction Video  
The Road to Saydnaya
Jamal Abdou describes the arrival into Saydnaya prison. © Forensic Architecture
The Architecture of Sound
Four former detainees describe their experiences of living in Saydnaya prison through the sounds that they had heard. 
© Forensic Architecture