We need you to identify and map remote and vulnerable villages using satellite images. Join thousands of Amnesty Decoders volunteers who are are already extending the reach of our research.

You can get started straight away - below you can find more information on what exactly we’re looking for. You don’t have to do it all in one go - in fact if you can do a bit whenever you’ve got a few spare minutes over the next few weeks that will help us massively. And the whole thing is as easy to do on your phone as it is on a computer, so you can decode on the move.

How to recognise villages

We are looking for inhabited villages - in this area they are mostly made up of round huts or rectangular houses with metal roofs.

You may notice different types of terrain - some regions are mountainous, with visible vegetation and other areas are arid and featureless.

✓ Metal roofs or other unnatural colour (can be isolated or in groups)
✓ Linear or circular features that enclose other objects
✓ Shadows (darkness) from the linear or circular features
✓ Many similar features clustered together
Easily confused features

Some features are easily confused with villages. Please see below for some examples.

✗ Linear or circular features that don't enclose other objects
✗ No shadows (looks flat)
✗ No un-natural colours
✗ Round, sporadic features, not enclosed, sometimes green
✗ Villages that appear abandoned for a long time - the structures appear flat, with no shadows and missing roofs
✗ Small red or orange areas
✗ Single small white shapeless spots
✗ Patches of earth that look burned, probably for agriculture reasons
Flagging images

You can also use the flag to discuss the images with other users and with the Amnesty International researchers working on Darfur.

When you should flag an image:

  1. You are not sure if a village appears to be inhabited or damaged, destroyed or abandoned.
  2. You want to alert Amnesty researchers to interesting structures or images that are relevant to our human rights research.
✓ Villages that appear damaged but still have metal roofs
✓ Possibly burned structures
✓ New structures in a pattern (which may indicate displaced people)
✓ Possible vehicles

For more information on how to assess if a village appears to be damaged or burned, please see this paper by Harvard Humanitarian Initiative.


When you first contribute to the Decode Darfur project, we will take you through a tutorial, showing you how the platform works and how to recognise human presence.

Frequently asked questions
Why are you doing this?

We have credible evidence that countless villages in Darfur have been attacked by the Sudanese government and its allied militias. People have been shot while fleeing, raped, and even targeted with chemical weapons. It has become nearly impossible for journalists and human rights investigators to bear witness to crimes in Darfur - but they are large enough as to be visible from space.

We want to build the evidence that will corroborate victim reports and witness testimony that shows civilians have been systematically attacked and show the international community that it has ignored Darfur for too long.

Where do you get satellite images?

In this stage of the project we are using publicly available satellite images provided by Google Maps. The highest resolution images available make it possible to identify huts, vehicles and even small groups of people or cattle. The images are not real time.

In the second phase of the project we will show Decoders images taken more recently which will enable them to detect change and potential destruction of villages

How do you verify the information submitted by Decoders?

Each image will be shown to a number of different Decoders, and will be treated as verified when they agree on what they have seen. Amnesty International researchers will also do random checks on the data to ensure its quality.

What data do you collect and why?
Satellite images data

Decoders will be presented with small parcels of satellite images and they will be asked to identify villages, often small round huts which are either isolated or in groups. We will use the location of these villages for the second phase of the project when we will ask Decoders to help us identify change and signs of destruction over time. We won’t be publicly sharing the exact locations of the satellite images so as not to increase any risk for the people living there. But we are happy to discuss sharing it with other organisations and initiatives and we will evaluate requests on a case by case basis. If you are interested in the data generated, please contact us by emailing us here.

User data

When you register with Amnesty Decoders, we ask some personal information including your name, email address and country of origin. Signing in allows you to participate in discussions, enables us to give you credit for your work, and helps the research teams make the best use of the data you provide.

We may also collect technical information, including the Internet protocol (IP) address used to connect your computer to the Internet, your login information, browser type and version, time zone setting, browser plug-in types and versions, operating system and platform;

All this data is collected to administer our site and for internal operations, including troubleshooting, data analysis, testing, research, statistical and survey purposes and to improve our site to ensure that content is presented in the most effective manner for you and for your computer.

Please refer to our Terms page for more information about the data we collect and how we intend to use it.

I want to know more, how can I contact you?

We are happy to answer whatever question you might have. Please feel free to contact us by emailing us here.