2011 War in SWANA: A Primary Sources Repository

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SWANA Project: Documenting and investigating the 2011 war in Southwest Asian and North Africa, this resource aims to be a comprehensive repository of primary sources for researchers, teachers, journalists, students, and other professionals.

The Uprisings and armed conflicts that broke out after the protest movement in Tunisia in 2010 are transformative and significant. It changed the political and even geographical landscape of many Arab countries and the region. The events brought to the forefront the role played by digital communication technology and social media. For the first time, researchers are able to access a wealth of information and monitor events, sometime live events, happening thousands of miles away from the comfort, and safety, of their desktop computers. These radical changes ushered in new opportunities and challenges. For instance, how can researchers process, cite, authority-check, and analyze primary sources that are virtual, source-less, and lack permanence?

This repository is, to some extent, an attempt to deal with some of these challenges and adopt new approaches and methodologies in research and teaching.

These procedural and substantive innovation are born out of necessity. Imagine a researcher investigating human rights abuses during the uprisings and armed conflicts in Iraq, Libya, Yemen, and/or Syria. They conclude that certain actors committed human rights abuses and they cite specific actions and events documented on video streaming websites and social media accounts. They refence the videos or documents through a URL. Some time later, they or another researcher wants to take a fresh look at the evidence only to discover that the videos were deleted for violation of the “Terms of Use” of, let’s say, YouTube. Research on this subject shows that 76% of the videos related to these events, especially those uploaded by ISIS sympathizers (about 278 accounts responsible for uploading 1,348 videos) were removed in less than two hours.

Conclusions and findings of a researcher are more reliable when other researchers, preferably from a difference discipline with different expertise and knowledge, can examine the same primary sources and reach the same or similar conclusions, or refute them. If the primary sources are not available, a second (third, fourth, etc.) opinion is no not possible and that research track reaches a dead-end. To remedy this problem, Prof. Souaiaia, and later several students and researchers, decided to save all primary sources upon which their research has been built, especially those that are likely to be removed from the Internet. The result, after eight years and still ongoing, is a large repository of digital documents (videos, maps, images, texts, etc.). As more secondary works commenting on these events are being published, making these primary sources available for researchers became compelling and a public good.

These primary sources are preserved as “AS IS”–the way they were published by their creators, including titles and/or descriptions, which may contain offensive, sectarian, racist, and/or hateful content. For this and other reasons, access to this repository is restricted, and given under the terms and guidance of Fair Use. As such, access is granted on case-by-case basis. Requests for access are generally handled by students and research assistants who would verify the status of anyone requesting access. This is a time-consuming process, and for that reason, a donation, in the form of “subscription” is required, which is used to pay students working on this project and to cover the cost of digital storage and bandwidth.

To receive access, researchers, journalists, and other experts in relevant professions must register and provide materials and references to verify their credentials and provide a statement about the purposes for which they need access to the Repository.

See Registration page for more information.

If you are a researcher who published scholarly work on this or related topics, please create a profile at the Secondary Sources Repository and introduce your findings.