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GW Announces Launch of ‘ISIS Files’ Public Digital Repository

June 30, 2020
Jason Shevrin: [email protected], 202-994-5631
Amelia Thompson: [email protected], 202-994-6461
WASHINGTON (June 30, 2020)—The George Washington University launched its ISIS Files repository today. The virtual public repository features a selection of the 15,000 digitized pages from the documents collected in Iraq by New York Times journalist Rukmini Callimachi and a team of Iraqi translators. GW’s Program on Extremism formed a partnership with The New York Times in 2018 to make these documents available to the public. The first collections released by GW focus on ISIS ideology and real estate and taxation. 
The Program on Extremism worked with The Times and GW’s Libraries and Academic Innovation division to digitize, translate and analyze the documents. They then were posted on a new website in their original form, accompanied by English translations. The website also includes an introduction and three reports which analyze and contextualize the documents on a specific topic, written by experts on extremism. GW will release future batches of documents in the coming months. Each batch will be accompanied by expert analysis.
The Times delivered the original documents to the Iraqi government through its embassy in Washington after the files were digitized.
The ISIS Files project team, with generous funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, engaged in 18 months of planning, research and consultation with some 300 institutions and experts to craft an ethical foundation for this effort. The team did extensive work to preserve and present the information contained in the ISIS Files in an accurate and impartial manner. The GW project team redacted the documents to remove any personally identifiable information. 
The resulting public repository serves as a record of genocide, to aid in a better understanding of one of most dangerous terrorist organizations in decades, providing a sense of how such an entity runs a state, and informing future policies to prevent the rise of the next Islamic State type of group. 
“The launch of the ISIS Files repository is the result of a great spirit of collaboration between GW, The New York Times and the hundreds of experts who shared their wisdom and experience,” Geneva Henry, GW’s dean of Libraries and Academic Innovation, said. “The significant ethical considerations involved with creating public access to these documents called for a deep and critical engagement with many professions, a review of archival guidelines and, most notably, guidance from Iraqi citizens.”
“The ISIS Files pulls back the curtain on the inner workings and organization of one of the most violent terrorist organizations in recent history,” GW Vice President for Research Robert H. Miller said. “This public repository puts thousands of original documents at the fingertips of journalists, scholars and policymakers so they can tell a more complete history and formulate new and effective responses to extremism.”
About the GW Program on Extremism
The Program on Extremism at the George Washington University is a leading academic research center on extremism with a focus on the Islamic State group. The program’s reports and findings have been widely shared in the media and have formed the foundation of congressional hearings and governmental policies. The program’s experts draw from decades of experience in government, policy and academia to regularly testify to and consult with policymakers and practitioners in the field. The program maintains one of the largest databases of English-language Islamic State digital propaganda and has extensively studied how the Islamic State group recruits and instructs its followers and members.
About Libraries and Academic Innovation
Libraries and Academic Innovation provides the foundation for supporting education and research at the George Washington University and is a national leader in the creation of and instruction on the tools of digital research. Librarians and staff fulfill their mission of advancing digital and computational fluency through support for innovative instruction and curriculum design, thoughtful design of physical and digital learning environments, and providing access to a wide range of modern tools and materials for data collection, analysis and visualization.
About The New York Times Company
The New York Times Company is a global media organization dedicated to enhancing society by creating, collecting and distributing high-quality news and information. The Company includes The New York Times, and related properties. It is known globally for excellence in its journalism, and innovation in its print and digital storytelling and its business model. Follow news about the company at @NYTimesPR.