Ten years later, and the proof is still online
On August 21st, Syrian Archive published an updated dataset of social media documentation of the 21 August 2013 sarin attack on East and West Ghouta. In the process of reviewing the data and analysing the materials, three things became strikingly clear.
First, this is the most- and best-documented attack incident in our open source archive of human rights violations and potential international crimes committed in Syria since 2011.
Second, this is by far the most graphic dataset we have ever produced, which is unsurprising given chemical weapons are banned at least in part for wreaking indiscriminate and disproportionate havoc on victims.
And third, open source documentation has staying power. A “real” accountability response to this tragedy is now more than a decade in the making, but proof of what happened will always be publicly available, meticulously documented, and secure on our servers.
We see this as an essential project, done to provide open source support for the important work of all of our partners and colleagues calling for accountability, including:
- Syria Civil Defense’s commemoration of the attack in collaboration with the Don’t Suffocate the Truth campaign.
- An open letter by the Don’t Suffocate the Truth campaign, calling on universities to hold academics accountable for and intervene against the “cognitive violence” of denialism.
- The Syria Campaign’s efforts to amplify the voices of survivors and Don’t Suffocate the Truth campaigners. Tuhama Darwish, a former nurse and responder to the attack, said: “we will keep going and reminding the whole world about what happened on the attack day, so that a day will come when all the criminals responsible will [be] held accountable.”
- In a statement released last week, the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) revisited their own archive of documentation of this attack and on that basis recommended specific actions to be taken by the international community.
Finally, as of this month, Syrian Archive is now a party to the ongoing criminal investigation into this attack in France. This investigation – and others in Germany and Sweden – were prompted by submissions made in 2020 and 2021 by the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM), the Open Society Justice Initiative, Civil Rights Defenders, and the Syrian Archive, along with survivors of the sarin gas attack.