The Sudanese Archive is a collaborative project designed to leverage the brave work individuals and organisations are doing in Sudan to hold the powerful accountable. We are part of a vibrant community of global and Sudanese human rights and media organisations doing this work. By curating and streamlining our efforts we can create stronger and more useful human rights data.
Since December 2018 the Sudanese Archive have been archiving the historic changes in Sudan using a mix of open source and primary visual media. Our goal is to help document every protest during the uprising, monitor human rights abuses and report on newsworthy developments by archiving, structuring and publishing visual documentation.
The Sudanese Archive has a dual focus: 1) Document acts of protests and strategic developments; 2) Monitor human rights abuses and government and militia reactions actions against civilians. Our platform is a vehicle for securely sharing and preserving this data. Simultaneously, we are developing an archiving platform to make this process more efficient and secure. All data is owned by the people and groups that collected and created it.
We focus on the following types of incidents:
Protests/Riots (Types of protests/Security forces reactions) Military and Security Incidents (Battles, Troop movements, Weapons documentation) Strategic Developments (Political, Social, Economic and Media Context) Violence Against Civilians (Shooting Civilians, Assaults on Civilians, Detentions, Destruction of Property, Gender Based Violence, Attacks on Humanitarian Structures)
Although the Sudanese Archive grew out of this historical uprising, we are also working with partners in conflict areas and affected communities to preserve and verify their collection of human rights related documentation over the last two decades.
Sudan is in the midst of dramatic change driven by an unprecedented wave of protests and civic engagement. After months of protest, president Omar al-Bashir fell and replaced by his own army generals. It took many more months of protests to establish a power sharing agreement between the transitional military council and the forces of freedom and change. During this time the military launched numerous violent crackdowns on the protestors.
Although the protests have united the country in new ways, the rapidly evolving situation is occurring in a heavily armed and divided society. The future may bring dialogue and democracy, but without real change it could bring further conflict and divisions. In this context there are critical challenges facing the flow of information:
The use of internet shut downs and continuing censorship makes it difficult for media and documentation groups to capture, verify, and post what is happening on the ground – especially outside of Khartoum. The intermittent connectivity and the ban on reporting sensitive subjects make traditional news-gathering nearly impossible for both local and international media.
Right now, this important moment of history exists almost entirely on social media. Without proper archiving, that crucial evidence could easily be lost. Week after week, dozens of organisations document the government abuses and political developments; however, but it is hard for any single organisation to capture the broader picture of what is happening across the country and to see how trends are changing over time.
Another problem is that much of the documentation is ephemeral and fleeting. For example, Facebook Live sessions are popular with protestors as they guarantee footage gets out and can be erased later to protect the creator from intelligence services. In addition, a long history of repression has siloed civil society groups making it difficult to share information safely in order to strengthen collaborations. These problems have also stood in the way of many other documentation efforts in Sudan over the last several decades.
Although Sudan's long history of human rights abuses and violence against civilians is well known, little evidence or archives of these incidents have been preserved and are rarely accessible. This makes securing justice difficult even if leaders are eventually prosecuted.
The Sudanese Archive is a collaborative archival platform designed to address these problems and enable visual documentation of human rights violations and newsworthy incidents during the current crisis and far into the future.
Why Visual Documentation?
Collecting visual documentation in a way that is transparent, detailed, and reliable is critical to provide accountability, humanise victims, reduce the space for disinformation, help societies understand the true cost of conflict and support truth and reconciliation efforts. It also feeds into: 1) Humanitarian response planning by helping to identify areas of risk and need as well as contribute to the protection of civilians; 2) Mechanisms that support increased legal compliance by parties involved and reductions in civilian harm; 3) Strengthening advocacy campaigns and legal accountability through building verified sets of materials documenting human rights violations in the Sudanese uprising; 4) Better and more accurate reporting by local and international media.
Visual documentation can also help Sudanese civil society establish a memorialisation process and create dialogues around issues related to peace and justice. It recognises and substantiates the suffering of citizens and provides multiple perspectives to prevent revisionist or simplified narratives. Video and images can compliment official narratives and press accounts of an event or situation, adding both detail and nuance. At other times, they directly rebut certain claims and contradict pervasive but false narratives. Although the Sudanese Archive focuses on visual documentation, we also collect certain non-visual documentation like text messages, eyewitness accounts, and tweets especially in areas with poor access to internet or during internet shut downs.
Research methodology is based on the following core principles:
First: Content identification, acquisition and standardisation
Sudanese Archive discovers relevant sources of information and aggregates them in a structured way. The acquisition is done by acquiring material published on social media platforms and other websites on a daily basis, and through building collaboration with journalists, lawyers and human rights activists to acquire and preserve their material directly.
Second: Secure long-term preservation
Sudanese Archive preserves documentation by storing them on secure servers online and with offline backups. Working with low-cost and reliable hosting partners, in addition to open source software, will help to ensure the long-term sustainability of the storage. This will ensure the material will continue to be available for analysis both now and in the future to advance justice, accountability and reconciliation efforts.
Third: Verification, cataloguing and metadata enrichment
Sudanese Archive organises preserved materials by cataloguing content in a standardised format.
Additional value is added to the material by recording as much metadata and chain of custody information as possible, including location, date and origin. Information regarding the target of attack (e.g. against journalists, civilian infrastructure, cultural property, or against humanitarian relief personnel and objects, etc.), as well as alleged perpetrator is included when known. This contextualises material by addressing the questions of when, where and what happened in a specific incident which will help viewers to identify and understand it.
Fourth: Accessibility and raising awareness
Sudan Archives endeavours make the material open, accessible and fully searchable to supply factual information for medias, promote discussions, debate and raise awareness on issues related to human rights, justice, equality, and accountability in Sudan.
Contact us Please contact us on info [at] sudanesearchive[dot] org.