Using Virtual Reality to Commemorate Genocide


Tactical Aim: 
Country or Region: 
Nobody’s Listening

This tactic combines the power of art and technology to pay tribute to the courage of genocide survivors. In 2014, ISIS launched deadly attacks against the Yazidi people in northern Iraq. Thousands were killed, exiled, or forced into slavery. Nobody's Listening: The Forgotten Voices of Sinjar explores the devastating affects of this genocide on Yazidi communities and their cultural heritage. This traveling exhibition shares Yazidi stories to people around the world. It allows users to “see” the tragic lived experience of Yazidi survivors and helps them understand Yazidi survivors’ demand for justice.

Through Virtual Reality technology, participants experience the 2014 genocide through a 360-degree documentary. This room-scale interactive experience is the centerpiece of the exhibition. It transports viewers to Kocho village in northern Iraq. A Yazidi woman tells her story of abduction and sexual slavery by ISIS. Viewers then hear from her brother, a survivor of the violent massacre in the village. This medium brings the viewer into the survivor’s experience in ways that other media cannot.

The VR experience was premiered at the Iraqi Parliament in 2020, and the Nobody’s Listening exhibition was launched at ZKM Museum in Karlsruhe, Germany.

In addition to paying tribute to survivors, the Nobody’s Listening exhibition provides a platform for survivors to express the specific actions needed to heal. This inspires viewers to want to take action. The exhibit includes social media stations that encourage participants to pledge #WeAreListening. Raising awareness of these atrocities strengthens the international movement towards justice and healing.

Between December 2020 and March 2021, the Nobody’s Listening exhibition traveled to five different cities in Iraq. More than 120 people watched the virtual reality exhibition. The exhibition helped viewers understand what happened to the Yazidi people. As a result, they voiced their own support for the victims' call to action to:

  • compensate victims
  • rebuild Yazidi communities, and
  • bring the perpetrators to justice

In 2023 the exhibition will travel to the University of Nebraska at Omaha, and the VR experience will be used in schools across the UK to counter extremism as part of the UK Government’s PREVENT strategy.

"The Nobody’s Listening Exhibition is  an important way to remind people of the horrors of ISIS, but also to  inspire action to ensure this never happens again to Yazidis, Christians or any other Iraqi community."

 – Ivana Waleed, Yazidi activist and genocide survivor

Nobody’s Listening Virtual Reality experience and art exhibition was produced by Yazda and Upstream. The VR experience was developed by Surround Vision and directed by Mary Matheson. The exhibition was designed by Easy Tiger Creative. The impact assessment was undertaken by the Digital Cultural Heritage Research Centre at the Sulaimani Polytechnic University and the Nahrein Network with funding from USAID and IOM.


New Tactics in Human Rights does not advocate for or endorse specific tactics, policies or issues.

What we can learn from this tactic: 

Digital storytelling can be a powerful tool for giving voice to survivors. It can build awareness for complex issues in a direct and personal way. Digital storytelling can also provide a vehicle for resilience to survivors and communities. It can build a deeper understanding and momentum for viewers to take action on an issue.