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28. Powerful storytelling and Virtual Reality with Rozhen Mohammed-Amin

Welcome to Episode 3 in a mini season focusing on the Nahrein Network. Here, I speak to Rozhen Kamal Mohammed-Amin, founding Director of the Digital Cultural Heritage Research Group (DCH) at the Sulaimani Polytechnic University and a lecturer in its City Planning Engineering Department. Rozhen is Co-Director of the Nahrein Network and also serves as secretary of RASHID, an international network dedicated to safeguarding the cultural heritage of Iraq that has United Nations Economic and Social Council special status.

Rozhen led the assessment of the impact of the Nobody’s Listening Virtual Reality exhibition in changing Iraqi perceptions of the Yazidi community. Nobody’s Listening was initiated by human rights advocate Ryan Xavier D’Souza. It was then developed as a collaboration between Yazda, a Yazidi global organisation established in the aftermath of the Yazidi genocide in 2014, and Surroundvision, a VR film studio based in London. This immersive exhibition aims to amplify the voices of survivors and affected communities seeking justice and recognition of the genocide by ISIL. Among other international and Iraqi project partners, DCH and the Nahrein Network also supported this exhibition.

In the podcast, Rozhen explains how the Nobody’s Listening virtual reality experience and exhibition, the depth and resonance of powerful storytelling shared through tech as a medium of sharing, can change lives. By sparking empathy and compassion for people, it generates more understanding between people and may even prevent violence in the future.

One of the key points in this episode is how fundamentally important it is to engage with people at an emotional level to tell a story. Once this core story is in place, technology can play a vital role in sharing powerful experiences and ideas. Otherwise, apps and other tech like virtual reality are just gadgets that people will discard once the novelty is gone.

I created a page with some photographs of Yazidi women who survived the genocide that were displayed in the ‘Women at the Frontline of Mass Violence Worldwide‘ exhibition at the Holocaust Museum, LA.

Follow Rozhen on Twitter @RozhenKM and DCH on Twitter & Facebook

You can follow The Nahrein Network on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook & YouTube

The Nahrein Network has supported the production of this series and was funded by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council and Global Challenges Fund up to September 2021 and now by a generous philanthropic gift to UCL.

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