About the project

Statement from Forensic Architecture on the replacement of their original submission, The Grenfell Tower Fire, with an alternative submission, Killing in Umm al-Hiran
We were delighted and honoured to be nominated to the shortlist of the Visible Award 2019 for our project on the fire at Grenfell Tower, London, on 14 June 2017. However, we are no longer able to put this project forward. Despite our initial assessment, we find ourselves at this time still restricted in our ability to speak publicly about our research by the legal and procedural context of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry.
With that in mind, we respectfully requested that we be given a chance to submit an alternative project for consideration.
That project, Killing in Umm al-Hiran, is now in its third year, and through its previous iterations has already exposed lies by the Israeli state regarding the killing of a Bedouin civilian, Yakub Musa Abu al-Qi’an. 
Our continued research into this case bears witness to the ongoing process of dispossession of Bedouin Palestinians in Israel, and deals with multiple forms of violence, from the killing of al-Qi’an to the subsequent obstruction and media manipulation. The project has been formative of many of the methodologies that define Forensic Architecture’s current practice, and is described in detail below. 

Killing in Umm al-Hiran

Before dawn on 18 Jan 2017, police raided the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran. Two people were killed: a villager, Yakub Musa Abu al-Qi’an, and policeman Erez Levi. Officials described the incident as a terror attack, and suggested that al-Qi’an had links to the terror group ISIS.

But residents and activists told a different story: police had fired at al-Qi’an without provocation. Forensic Architecture has worked from the day of the incident to pursue transparency and justice with and on behalf of those residents, and the family of al-Qi’an.

Since then we have reproduced and revisited that investigation multiple times, exposing glaring inconsistencies in the account of al-Qi’an’s death presented by leading Israeli figures, including Prime Minister Netanyahu.

Working with the documentary photographers Activestills, we analysed open source video material, including helicopter camera footage released by the Israel Police that was intended to cast al-Qi’an as a terrorist, in order to challenge the state’s claims. Later, we traveled to Umm al-Hiran to reenactment the event together with the village’s residents.

Despite being forced to retract their claims, politicians and police have long refused to pursue prosecution against al-Qi’an’s killers.

This sprawling investigation has been supported variously by cultural institutions from MACBA to London’s Tate and ICA. We are seeking the support of the Visible Award committee to move into a new phase.

Today, working with the Public Committee against Torture in Israel (PCATI), who support victims of police violence, we are pursuing two legal claims. One, on behalf of al-Qi’an’s family, is a petition to open proceedings against the Israel Police for denying medical aid to al-Qi’an as he lay dying. The other is a claim on behalf of a leading Palestinian parliamentarian, Aymen Odeh, who was injured by police.


On Killing in Umm al-Hiran

About the artist

Forensic Architecture is a research agency based at Goldsmiths, University of London. We conduct architectural & media research on behalf of communities affected by state violence, human rights NGOs, and environmental justice groups.

We have made decisive interventions in cases around the world, providing forms of evidence with which traditional forensic processes often cannot engage. Our work is presented in legal & political forums, major exhibitions, citizens’ tribunals & international media.