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A Regional and Thematic Approach to Web-Archiving: Collaboratively Capturing Official, Non-Governmental and Cultural Websites from Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan and Tajikistan

(The following is a post by Hirad Dinavari, area specialist for the Iranic world, Near East Section, African and Middle Eastern Division.)

The Library of Congress recently released two digital collections for online public access: the Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, and Tajikistan Elections web archive; and the Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan and Tajikistan Government web archive. They are part of the growing number of web archives that are freely accessible on the Library’s website.

The two archives have been assembled based on the shared cultures and linguistics of the Persian-speaking ethnic populations that reside in the region. The archives contain roughly 530 websites from the four countries, many in English and others in the local Farsi, Dari and Tajiki dialects of the Persian language. The archives also include websites in Urdu, Pashto, Arabic and Russian.

The two archives cover 2005 to 2016, a crucial time period during which a series of socially and politically noteworthy events unfolded. Events chronicled include the U.S. and NATO presence in Afghanistan, the rule of various presidents in Iran, the aftermath of the Tajik civil conflict in the post-Soviet era, the rise and fall of various elected Pakistani governments, and the role of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in Pakistan concerning the various Taliban factions. A number of websites have since ceased to exist and are no longer available online except via the Library’s web archives. Thus, the captured websites have become some of the rare resources available to get a feel of the pulse of the societies during the period covered by these archives.

The two web archives began as collaborative projects initiated by the Library’s Islamabad Field Office staff in consultation with the African and Middle Eastern Division for Afghanistan, Iran and Tajikistan; and the Asian Division for Pakistan. The Library’s Web Archiving Team spent several years to consistently harvest and archive websites. In the past two years, the four offices jointly developed content frameworks and presentations of the two collections for release on the Library’s user-friendly Digital Collections platform.

The goal for this regional approach to web archiving is to transcend the existing political boundaries and reflect the common cultural and linguistic realities of the area. This also allows the cumulative capture of the various Persian, Pashto and Balouchi dialects across political boarders. Currently a collaborative web archiving collection on women and gender issues of these four countries is in development and will be available on the Library’s Digital Collections platform in the near future. Other regional projects that are in the works include a Central Asia Election project and thematic projects on South Asia.

Taken together, the existing and future web archiving projects aim to provide a fuller picture of the culturally rich and ethnically diverse region. Besides election coverages, these projects are intended to document websites pertaining to economics, government policy, social welfare, education, archaeology, art and architecture, history, religion, earth and space sciences, public health, sociology, law, military and naval science, engineering, applied science, environmental science, international development to urban design, and journalism.

Working with the web archiving team, the talented staff on the ground in the Islamabad Field Office, and colleagues in the Asian division has been a true gift since team work and cumulative effort and expertise result in more well-rounded collections.

Here is a sampling of archived websites from each of the four countries:

Afghanistan:

Iran:

Pakistan:

A screenshot of a foreign website

Pasban Pakistan | Voice Against Injustice | President Altaf Shakoor, a non-governmental group advocating social justice.

a screenshot of a foreign website.

Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan, an Islamic political party and the Pakistani successor to Jamaat-e-Islami, which was founded in colonial India in 1941.

Tajikistan:

For reference assistance, contact the African and Middle Eastern Reading Room via Ask a Librarian or call (202) 707-4188.

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