While this database is a potentially powerful tool for researchers concerned with the human rights situation in Afghanistan, it is important to understand the limitations of this collection. Each entry represents a single moment or event as documented by a single source. For instance, a night raid which resulted in three killings and looting constitutes a single event. Multiple organizations may report on the same event with the same or similar facts, but each organization's report constitutes its own entry. The database offers researchers the ability to find all references to a single event, or group of events, rather than read through hundreds of reports on their own. However, the database is limited to events that have been reported, and further limited to those reports which have been added to the database. In other words, if an event does not exist in the database, it is still possible that the event occurred.
One might be tempted to use the database to make quantitative estimates about Afghanistan's human rights situation. However, the nature of the database makes this type of analysis difficult. As an example, an early map prototype for this project showed a disproportionate number of entries took place in and around Kabul. An inexperienced researcher might have looked at the data and concluded that Kabul is the most dangerous region in Afghanistan, but anecdotal evidence indicated that the opposite should be true. So what was happening? One possibility is that human rights researchers spend a disproportionate amount of time interviewing victims in Kabul, perhaps out of concerns for safety, for budgetary reasons or because the government prevents them from leaving the city. A higher number of interviewees from Kabul as opposed to other regions translate into a higher proportion of violations within that region when compared to the rest of the country. The same effect can be seen in a period-specific analysis, where, for instance, despite a well-known spike in violence, the database shows a decrease in reported violations. While some events (such as the massacre Mazar-i Sharif in 1998) draw researchers' attention, other events (such as the forced disappearance of a family in a remote province) go unnoticed by the outside world. A careful researcher should not draw unwarranted conclusions from the whole of the database.
The Project does not independently verify the information contained in the database. Rather, the database is based on information collected by third parties such as governments, human rights NGOs and other sources. In all cases, the source of the entry is noted within the entry itself. Many reports link to a downloadable version of the source document, while others may have their sources restricted if publication of that information would present a safety risk to an individual or organization. For security purposes, this information is not available to public users. However, information which may be used to identify interviewers, interviewees and witnesses may be provided to trusted users and organizations through privileged access to the project's resources. Privileged access may be granted to trusted user groups in the future.
The strength of the database is directly proportional to the number and quality of the reports it contains. If you or your organization has a report or other source of information which could be useful to the project, we encourage you to share access with us. All entries in the database give credit to the original author or organization.